by Jeff Bowell, guest blogger
This time of year, weather permitting, you’re in for a treat: the morning moon. You can spot the moon by looking up high in the west when you go outside in the mornings. The late (past-full) moons of late summer and early autumn follow a track across the sky that makes them easy to spot throughout the morning, and often well into the afternoon. On September 1st, the last quarter moon will be passing in front of Taurus, a part of the Zodiac that is very high in the Northern Hemisphere, and that moon will be just about directly overhead right around the time you start your breakfast…see for yourself!
The term “last quarter moon” can be confusing. It’s not that you’re seeing only 1/4 of the moon, but rather that you’re seeing the moon in the last quarter of its cycle. What you will see is a half moon with a curve towards the east/left. As long as the weather cooperates, you’ll be able to see this moon start to swing down to the northwest after lunch.
In astronomy, there’s the idea that “Everything is its own opposite.” This idea isn’t as complicated as it may first seem. For example, when you see a full moon, it’s in the part of the sky where the sun will be six months and twelve hours later. A summertime full moon is pretty low, regardless of what hemisphere you live in, and it marks the spot where the sun was back six months (and twelve hours) ago in winter. And, in comparison, a full moon in winter is in the part of the sky where the sun was six months (and twelve hours) ago.
It’s the same with the first-quarter and last-quarter moons. For example, the last-quarter moon that you see overhead on the morning of September 1st here in the Northern Hemisphere is in just about the same part of the sky that the first-quarter moon will be in six months and twelve hours time: half a year and half a day away.
But wait, there’s more. The last-quarter moon you see on September 1st just before dawn is in the same part of the sky where the full moon will be around midnight three months later, where the first-quarter moon will be around sunset six months later, and where the sun will be around noon nine months later (so you won’t see the moon at all then). As Shakespeare said, “So now ’tis clear, as is the summer sun.” – Henry V
Getting back to high morning moons, there was a time years ago when I was looking at a late-morning moon of September through my telescope. A neighbor spotted me and asked what I was doing. She was shocked that the moon would be “out” in the daytime, and a little bit concerned as well:
HER: “Uhh…is everything all right?”
ME (With quiet assurance): “We’re keeping an eye on it…”
Actually, daytime moons – early rising and late setting moons – can be spotted lots of times during the year, if you know where to look and when. Your local newspaper should give moonrise and moonset times for your region. For me, daytime moons, particularly “High-Morning Moons” always have been favorites, and I hope you enjoy them too!
As always, happy seeing!