The moon will continue to dominate evening skies worldwide this week. As the moon waxes fuller the eastern side of the moon’s round face will be dramatically lit by slanted sunlight along the terminator — the pole-to-pole zone that divides the moon’s lit and dark hemispheres. Scan your binoculars along that strip of the moon, and then look again on subsequent nights to view new terrain in stark relief.
Starting on Tuesday evening and lasting until dawn, the nearly full moon will pass just to the north of the stars making up the triangular face of Taurus (the Bull). The bright star Aldebaran, which marks the bull’s more southerly eye, will still be visible against the moon’s brilliance. Due to Taurus’ position just south of the Ecliptic, the moon passes near, or through, his face every month.
On Wednesday night, the moon will move to sit between the horns of Taurus and then reach its full moon phase at 12:12 am EST (05:12 UT or Greenwich Mean Time) on Thursday. The December full moon, traditionally known as the Oak Moon, Cold Moon, Long Nights Moon, and the Moon Before Yule, always shines in or near the stars of Taurus. Since it’s opposite the sun on this day of the lunar month, the moon becomes fully illuminated, and rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Full moons during the winter months at mid-northern latitudes reach as high in the sky as the summer noonday sun, and cast similar shadows.
Indigenous people have their own names for the full moons, which marked time and lit the way of the hunter or traveler at night before modern conveniences like flashlights. The Ojibwe of the Great Lakes region call the December full moon Mnidoons Giizis, the “Blue Moon” or “Big Spirit Moon”. For them it is a time of purification and of healing of all Creation. The Cree of North America call it Thithikopiwipisim, the “Hoar Frost Moon”, when frost sticks to leaves and other things outside.
On Thursday evening, the just-past-full moon will also pass within two finger widths to…