Look up Monday night to see the first of 2022's Full Moons — the Wolf Moon — crossing the sky.
Whatever you are up to on Monday night, if you have reasonably clear skies, spare a few moments to take in the splendour of the Moon. Rising just before sunset, the Full Wolf Moon will be up all night long and will slip below the western horizon just after the Sun rises. So, there is plenty of time to check it out.
WHAT IS THE WOLF MOON?
The Old Farmer's Almanac lists several different names for the first Full Moon of the year. Of course, Wolf Moon is the most popular. However, they also include several others, such as Center Moon, Cold Moon, Greetings Moon, Hard Moon, Severe Moon, and Spirit Moon.
As the Almanac says: "The howling of wolves was often heard at this time of year. It was traditionally thought that wolves howled due to hunger, but we now know that wolves use howls to define territory, locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, and gather for hunting."
Many of these names are loose translations of terms or phrases given to the Moons by First Nations peoples, such as the Sioux (Wolves Run Together), the Assiniboine (Center Moon), the Cherokee (Cold Moon), the Abenaki (Greetings Maker Moon), the Lakota (Hard Moon), the Shawnee (Severe Moon), and the Chippewa and Ojibwe (Great Spirits Moon).
WATCH BELOW: SEE EVERY VIEW OF THE MOON FOR 2022 IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES
Most of us know about supermoons, when the Full Moon is closer and brighter than usual. However, have you heard about the 'micromoon'?
Opposite of a supermoon, a micromoon is a Full Moon that occurs near its farthest point from Earth in its orbit. That makes it appear smaller and dimmer than a typical Full Moon.
Monday night's Wolf Moon is the first of only two micromoons for this year, and we have to wait until December to see the second. It is also the year's apogee micromoon — the farthest, smallest, and dimmest Full Moon for all of 2022.
This graphic collects all the relevant data about each Full Moon of 2022, including their popular names, whether they are a 'super' or 'micro' Moon, a perigee or apogee Full Moon, as well as other remarkable info, like the Harvest Moon and lunar eclipses. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Scott Sutherland
THE MOON ILLUSION
Even though this Full Wolf Moon is the smallest Full Moon of the year, if you're seeing it just after it rises or shortly before it sets, you may not register that fact to start. This is due to a little trick of the mind known as The Moon Illusion.
The human brain gauges the size and distance of objects by comparing them to other things directly around them. The Moon technically doesn't have anything directly around it, at least not that we can perceive with the naked eye. However, our brains still try to put the Moon into perspective by comparing it to objects in the foreground of our field of view — trees, buildings, etc. As it tries to fit the Moon into that context, the brain interprets it as being much larger than it truly is.
This Full Moon rose over Calgary, AB, on September 13, 2019. Credit: Siv Heang
This illusion is so deeply ingrained into our brain that it's a real challenge to see past it. Even if you know that it's just a trick, it often doesn't matter. You will still see the Moon as being bigger than it really is.
We have a couple of tricks of our own you can try, though, which may cancel out the illusion (at least temporarily).
First, when observing the Moon early in the evening, when it is near the horizon, stretch out your arm in front of you, close one eye, and cover over the Moon's face with the tip of a finger or thumb. Try to pick a digit that most closely matches the size of the Moon. Later on, when the Moon is higher in the sky and appears smaller, repeat this process using the same finger or thumb. Again, it should appear exactly the same size compared to that digit, revealing that, even as it looked larger earlier and smaller now, it's actually the same size at both times.
The second trick relies upon technology. While the Moon is near the horizon, looking huge to the naked eye, take out your cellphone, open up your camera app, and look at the Moon on the screen. Comparing what you see directly with how it appears on the small screen often cancels the illusion. However, if you snap some pictures and then look at them later (especially if you transfer them to a larger computer screen), the Moon will probably appear bigger again. That's how powerful the Moon illusion is!
If you do take pictures, why not load them up into our UGC gallery, so the rest of us can see them, too?