Shoot the Moon

Inspired by Jon Spargo’s September Skies article I shared yesterday, I did some observing last night and this morning. I had plans to meet friends at Box Canyon yesterday early evening to do some bouldering, and I realized that the western wall of the canyon would be the perfect place to catch the Moon rising over the quebradas in the distance. After a few hours of bouldering (which for me as a beginner consists of desperately clinging to rough rock and shredding the skin on my hands), we finished up on the Gimmies just in time to scoot up to the top of the west wall and set up to shoot the Moon.

Part of the Gimmies, popular bouldering spot in Box Canyon outside of Socorro, New Mexico.

There turned out to be much more haze on the horizon than I realized, delaying the appearance of the Moon by nearly ten minutes past its actual rise time. When it did finally rise above the haze, the Moon was a deep yellow/orange color, and a beautiful sight to behold.

Moon rising through the layers of haze and light clouds. The foreground is the east wall of Box Canyon, and the quebradas are in the distance.
Wide angle view of the Moon over the east wall of Box Canyon.

Because the east wall of the canyon starts low on its north side and reaches a higher elevation toward its south side, we were able to witness three more “moonrises” by moving south on our side of the canyon. This was a great example of parallax, the difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along different lines of sight.

First moonrise over the east wall of Box Canyon.
Second moonrise over the east wall of Box Canyon.
Third moonrise over the east wall of Box Canyon.

Seeing four moonrises in one night was a new record for me!

Since observing the full Moon setting in the morning is just as interesting as watching it rise, I planned to get up early this morning to do just that. I have mountains in my field of view to the west where the Moon was setting this morning, so for me moonset began about 6:25 AM MDT.

Moonset in Polvadera, New Mexico.

If you missed the moonrise last night, you have another chance tonight. Although the Moon has already reached its full phase (100% illuminated) and is beginning to wane (become less illuminated), it hasn’t waned by much; in our location the Moon will be 99.8% illuminated, according to LunaSolCal (print screen below). Moreover, it will still be about 99% illuminated when it sets on Thursday morning, though it won’t have that nice orange color since it sets more than an hour after the Sun rises.

Here’s hoping for clear skies and good observing!

M. Colleen Gino, MRO Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications