Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Associated Press
The moon, seen here rising behind a bare tree in
Ontario, Calif., will look special tomorrow, the
first full moon to occur on the winter solstice since 1866.

Tomorrow’s moon may
knock your socks off,
thanks to a heavenly
rarity not seen for years

It'll look much bigger and brighter
and will usher in the winter season

By Lori Tighe


To paraphrase the song, it's hitting the public in the eye like a big pizza pie.

Some are calling it the millennium moon: a bigger and brighter full moon tomorrow coinciding with the first day of winter. The full moon and the winter solstice haven't happened together in 133 years.

Most astronomers say it's just an unusual coincidence, but that hasn't stopped the buzz.

"The public has caught on to it. We've had three to four phone calls a day," said Mike Shanahan, planetarium producer at Bishop Museum. "It's really much ado about nothing, but people relate to the moon."

Bishop Museum will open its observatory from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow -- when the moon is at its brightest -- for free moon watching, weather permitting. Brief demonstrations of lunar phases and the seasons also will be given.

The position of the Earth, the sun and the moon will cause the moon to look 14 percent bigger and 7 percent brighter than usual. "It'll be a beautiful full moon," said Joseph Ciotti, a Windward Community College astronomy professor.

"This is well worthwhile, alerting people."

The moon will be at perigee, the closest it gets to the Earth in its orbit. And the Earth will be several million miles closer than usual to the sun, which will shine on the moon more intensely and make it brighter.

University of Hawaii astronomer Dave Tholen is giving the bah humbug to the whole event.

"It's just a matter of two periods which have nothing to do with each other going into the same phase," he said."And the fact that it's just before the millennium is just another coincidence. It's not a big deal to astronomers."

Most people won't be able to tell the difference between a common full moon and the bigger and brighter millennium moon, Tholen said.

On the other side of the star-gazing spectrum, even astrological consultant Peggy Oshiro said she's not jumping up and down about it.

She acknowledges, though, that "it is interesting. It's going to be very bright, if the weather is clear. We won't see this again for another 100 or so more years."

But all may not be well. The moon will enter the first degree of Cancer, affecting bodily fluids and tides, Oshiro said. She predicted people will overeat and end up in the emergency room.

And the winter solstice begins when the sun goes into Capricorn, Oshiro said. The major concern: A lot of people will feel depressed, sentimental and anxious.

The Old Farmer's Almanac says the combination of astronomical forces will affect the tides tomorrow. Astronomer Bob Berman, quoted in the almanac, said coastal flooding could occur if there's a storm at sea or shore winds.

The almanac said the last time such a moon occurred -- on Dec. 21, 1866 -- the "Lakota Sioux staged a devastating retaliatory ambush of soldiers in the Wyoming Territory -- perhaps planning the attack for that bright night, whose lunar confluence was identical to this year's."

Shanahan at Bishop Museum said regardless of what astronomers say about it, the public has claimed the event as its own.

"People have clicked with the idea of a very big and bright full moon," Shanahan said. "They connect to it."

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