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Moon, Planets Put on a Show Above Oregon, the Coast Tonight and This Week

Published 10/05/2017 at 6:37 PM PDT - Updated 10/05/2017 at 7:00 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Moon and Planets Put on a Show Above Oregon, the Coast

(Oregon Coast) - Right now the full moon is extra stunning on these early fall nights, which still fit into the Second Summer phenomenon on the Oregon coast – or Indian summer if you're inland in places like Portland or Eugene. It's a time when the best weather of the year happens along the beaches – and that's certainly been true as of late. More great weather inland and on the beaches is coming, after a brief downturn towards rainy over the weekend.

There's a lot going on in those skies above Portland and the Oregon coast, and this weather will give great glimpses of the moon and two planets interacting. See Oregon Coast Weather

October's full moon is called the Harvest Moon, according to Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI. It refers to the full moon that comes closest to the fall equinox, which happened in September.

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“October's full Moon, called the Harvest Moon, refers to the full Moon that comes closest to the first day of autumn,” Todd said. “Depending on the year, the Harvest Moon can fall before or after the autumnal equinox which arrives annually on or near September 22. This year, the Harvest Moon reaches full phase on October 5 at 11:40 a.m. PDT.”

Todd said that before mankind had artificial lighting, every civilization was very aware of the daylight hours beginning to wane quicker and quicker around the autumnal equinox. This is a time when the sun rises due east and sets due west.

“But back then, people also understood lunar behavior, harvesting by the light of the moon,” Todd said.

Look for the Harvest Moon as a large orange full moon low above the eastern horizon after 7:09 p.m. on October 5, with the sunset happening around 6:25 p.m. on the Oregon coast.

“The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect,” Todd said. “When looking toward the horizon, we are actually looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when looking directly overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light (the reason the sky looks blue). The thickness of the atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow, orange or reddish hue.”

It will look bigger than usual as well when it's near the horizon, a trick of the eyes that remains controversial to this day. Todd said it's a matter of perception – a trick of the brain – which makes you think it's larger than other times.

“When an object is perceived to be nearer, the brain may compensate by making it look smaller to us,” Todd said. “Likewise, an object thought to be farther away will be seen as larger.”

It's literally called "the moon illusion."

Two worlds in our solar system will come closer together than usual tonight, with Mars and Venus getting .02 apart (two fifths of a moon apart) from the perspective of those in Oregon and along the Oregon coast.

Earth Sky News said right about now – through much of early October – you can use the dazzling planet Venus to find the much fainter (and elusive) planet Mars, both in the direction of the sunrise. The magazine said you usually need binoculars to see Mars, and this time the two planets will be within the same binocular field in the first week of October. They get at their very closest tonight.

Venus is normally the third brightest object in the sky (after the sun and moon), outshining Mars by some 200 percent at this moment.

Mars is actually at its dimmest point in the year as it's wandering on the far side of the sun, from the perspective of the Earth. In fact, Mars is just days away from aphelion – its farthest point away from the sun. This puts both the Earth and Mars at their farthest possible points from each other.

With the full moon visible now, and the near-full moon really visible again from Monday through much of the week, this will make it an extraordinary time to check out the beaches of the coast at night. Where to stay for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour More moon moments of the Oregon coast below:


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