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Volume 15, Issue 34 ~ August 23 - August 29, 2007

As Red as an August Moon

Tuesday morning’s total lunar eclipse will have you seeing red

The gibbous moon waxes to full Tuesday as the Sturgeon Moon, named for the monstrous fish that once abounded in Chesapeake and other coastal waters. Traveling up rivers and streams this time each year to spawn, the fish made for easy catching. Today, however, with all American sturgeon on the brink of collapse or worse, the alternate name of the Red Moon is more apt.

While the August full moon may appear reddish-orange — a result of its light defracting as it angles through earth’s atmosphere — it will in no way look like Mars. Or vice-versa.

So don’t be fooled by an internet chain letter claiming that the planet Mars “will look as large as the full moon” on August 27. Like the game of telephone, fact has been reworked into myth since August 27, 2003, when Mars did make its closest recorded pass by earth. At the time, the red planet appeared roughly three times larger than usual; Even so, it was nowhere near the size of the moon. This year, Mars does not make its closest approach until December, when it will appear little more than twice its usual size.

This week’s big show comes a day later, in the wee hours before dawn Tuesday August 28th.

Beginning at 4:51am, Earth’s shadow nibbles away at the moon. An hour later, at 5:52, the shadow covers the moon in totality. Rather than disappearing, though, the moon takes on a deep ruddy glow, another case of sunlight diffused and scattered through Earth’s atmosphere, in this case bounced back onto the eclipsed moonscape. Totality lasts 90 minutes, but we Baysiders will miss the end, as the moon sets with sunrise at 6:33am.


Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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