Science

January 2022 full moon: ‘wolf moon’ rises with winter constellations

January’s full moon, called the Wolf Moon, will occur on Monday, January 17 at 6:48 p.m. EST (11:48 GMT), according to NASA.

Moonrise in New York City is at 4:31 p.m. that afternoon, according to Time and Date. The moon will be in the constellation Virgo and rises about 24 minutes before sunset.

The full moon happens because the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. The moon is illuminated because we see sunlight reflecting off it, and because the moon’s rotational period is the same as its orbital period, we always see the same side of our satellite world.

Related: The Best Night Sky Events Of January 2022 (Stargazing Maps)

The timing of the full moon is the same everywhere, as it is determined by where the moon is in relation to Earth rather than its apparent position in the sky, which is slightly different depending on one’s location. Observers in the British Isles and Portugal will see the full moon at 11:48 p.m. local time, while those in western continental Europe will see it at 0:48 a.m. on January 18. On the eastern side of Australia, the moon is full at 10:48 a.m. on January 18.

Since the full moon is on the opposite side of the sky from the sun, observers in the northern hemisphere will see it relatively high in the sky; essentially, the moon is in the position the sun would be in during the day in the summer months. From New York City, this means that the moon reaches a maximum altitude of about 74 degrees; observers a little further south in Miami will see it reach 87 degrees, almost zenith (directly overhead) at 12:46 a.m. on January 18. In the southern hemisphere the opposite occurs, since it is summer there. In Melbourne, Australia, the full moon will reach a maximum altitude of just 26 degrees at 1:14 a.m. local time on January 18.

The moon moves relatively quickly against background stars, because it is so close (in relative terms) to Earth, only 239,000 miles (384,000 kilometers) away on average. So about every hour the moon appears to move one of its own diameters to the east. One effect of this is that during one day of each lunation, or lunar month, the moon takes a little over 24 hours to make one complete revolution around the sky. On those days the moon never crosses the local meridian, the line drawn through the zenith from north to south. That day will differ slightly depending on one’s longitude, but it is always within a day or two of the full moon. In New York it is the night of the full moon, while in Melbourne it is January 16.

stars and constellations

The skies of the Northern Hemisphere are full of bright stars: the constellations of Orion, Taurus, Gemini and Canis Major are located in roughly the same part of the sky. Each is made up of enough first- and second-magnitude stars that they are visible even from light-polluted locations; the three stars that mark Orion’s belt are evident even in cities like New York, Paris or Chicago.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer stars are high in the early afternoon; At mid-southern latitudes (as in, say, Santiago, Chile, Melbourne, or Cape Town) the constellations that make up Jason’s legendary ship, the Argo, are high in the southeastern sky. The three constellations are Carina, the keel, Puppis, the deck, and Vela, the sail. The brightest star among them is Canopus, which will be to the right of Sirius when one looks south. Further east (right) you can see Achernar, the star that marks the end of Eridanus, the river, and if you follow the trail of stars that make up the course of the river, you will end up near an “upside down” Orion.

visible planets

This sky map shows where Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury can be seen after sunset on January 17, 2022, as seen from New York City.

This sky map shows where Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury can be seen after sunset on January 17, 2022, as seen from New York City. (Image credit: SkySafari app)

On the night of a full moon, Jupiter will be the most visible planet after sunset. In New York, the sun sets at 4:55 p.m. local time and the sky darkens enough to see planets and bright objects around 5:30 p.m.; Jupiter at that point is in the southwest, about 24 degrees high.

In December, Saturn and Mercury were also visible, but by January 17, Saturn will be only 7 degrees high half an hour after sunset, while Mercury will be only about 5 degrees high. To see either, you would need a very flat western horizon and very clear weather. Mercury sets at 5:52 pm in New York; Saturn follows it at 6:08 pm local time. Meanwhile, Jupiter sets at 7:52 p.m., so it should be visible in the mid-northern latitudes until around 7:30 p.m. local time, before it’s likely to be behind a building or a vehicle. tree.

Meanwhile, Mars rises at 5:13 a.m. on January 18 in New York and is barely visible in the predawn sky: at 6 a.m. local time, it will be about 9 degrees high. As the year progresses, it will become easier to see as the planet slowly moves west.

the wolf moon

(Image credit: SkySafari app)

January’s full moon is often called the Wolf Moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which may date back to Native American tribes and early colonial times, when wolves howled outside villages.

According to the Ontario Native Literacy Project, the Cree, whose traditional territory stretched from what is now Quebec to Alberta and encircled Hudson Bay, called the January lunation Opawahcikanasis, or the “Frost Exploding Moon.” , since at that time of the year one might hear the cracks in some trees as ice forms and falls.

In the southern hemisphere, December is during summer, and the New Zealand Maori described the lunar months from January to February (counting from one new moon to the next, the full moon would be half the month) as Hui-Tanguru, or “Rūhī’s foot now rests on the ground”, according to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Rūhī refers to a star in the constellation Scorpio, near Antares (called Rehua).

In China, the traditional lunar calendar calls this full moon the 12th month, Làyuè, or Preserving Month, named for the practice of preserving meats during the winter. Chinese Lunar New Year is in February, so this January marks the end of the year rather than the beginning.

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