Volume 14, Issue 10 ~ March 9 - March 15, 2006

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Sky Watch

by J. Alex Knoll

Winter’s Last Moon

Tuesday, March 14, marks the last full moon of winter, but it is also a moon of seasonal transitions and of rebirth.

In Native American lore, this is the Worm Moon, the the Sap Moon, the Crow Moon or the Crust Moon.

As temperatures warm, snow melts by day, then freezes again at night, creating a crust upon the ground.

Similarly, as the thaw releases the ground from winter’s frozen grip, earthworms return to the surface, providing protein-rich meals for another harbinger of spring, the robins.

With the return of life to the land come the ultimate winged scavengers, the crows, whose cawing is said to chase away the winter spirit.

Life returns to the trees, as well, as the sap rises through their trunks and out their branches, filling the buds that will burst forth in the next month.

Early colonists borrowed many of the full moon names from the Indian neighbors, but they also added names germane to their own experiences and cultures. After a perilous first winter, the Jamestown settlers rejoiced with the return to the rivers and streams of the spawning shad, and so they called this the Fish Moon.

The colonists also called this the Maple Sugar Moon. Originally the Native Americans tapped many trees this time of year, including birch, beech and oak as well as maple. But the settlers preferred maple, which produced the sweetest syrup.

With the early settlers came Christianity, who called this last moon before Easter the Lenten Moon.

Mars shines high in the west at sunset, after 6pm, and sets in the northwest around 1am. Saturn dazzles high overhead with darkness and doesn’t set until 4am. Look for the ringed planet near the moon Thursday and Friday nights. Jupiter rises in the southeast around 11pm and is well above the southwest horizon come dawn, before 6:30. Venus is brilliant as the “morning star” low in the southeast before daybreak.

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