Rise of the Full Moon

"Blue Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
“Blue Moon I”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

As readers will certainly know, I’ve been photographing moonrises of the full moon through my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project. Two of the fascinating aspects of watching moonrise after moonrise are seeing how quickly it happens and also how different each moonrise is in terms of color of the moon, atmospheric conditions, and the like.

You can get a sense of how how the moon can vary in each moonrise from my portfolio, but a great new video (h/t to APOD) posted by a videographer named Mark Gee wonderfully illustrates the speed of moonrise. He set up over a mile away from the Queen Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand as the moon rose. The long distance and extreme telephoto gave a wonderful compression effect with respect to the silhouettes (making the moon appear massive), and this video is real-time, not a time-lapse, so you get a great sense of the moon’s motion as well as of the silhouetted viewers. The video is less than 4 minutes long and I heartily recommend you watch at least the first minute of it. Viewers start appearing at the 30 second mark.

One thing to note is that the moon is traveling from right to left from the perspective of viewers, but here in the Northern Hemisphere the moon will appear to travel from left to right. You can find out more details about this and some of technical aspects on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

Another aspect of moonrise the video demonstrates is how the atmosphere interrupts the view of the moon — you can see the edges of the moon varying as the view of the moon passes through different parts of the atmosphere, making even the full moon rarely appear as a perfect circle.

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