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Chonky, Orange Moon, Planets and Meteor Showers Coming: Washington / Oregon Coast Astronomy

Published 09/25/23 at 6:07 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Chonky, Orange Moon, Planets and Meteor Showers Coming: Washington / Oregon Coast Astronomy

(Portland, Oregon) – Next on tap for the skies above the Oregon coast and Washington coast is something big and beaming – well, at least if you can see it. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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The massive full harvest moon shows up in the skies on Friday, September 29, and if the skies are clear it'll be fat and orange when it first appears. There's also another big planet in our skies, and you may start seeing parts of some meteor showers in early October.

Portland astronomy expert Jim Todd, with OMSI, said this full harvest moon starts showing up around at sunset as it gets to that stage. It's called the harvest moon, Todd said, because it shows up close to the first day of autumn, which in this case was last Friday on September 22.

It appears to the east of the Oregon coast and Washington coast a ways after 7:14 p.m. (that time is closer to when Seattle or Portland will see it as the coastlines have the Coast Range mountains in the way.)

“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 atmosphere's thickness in the horizon's direction scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through. Therefore, a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow, orange, or reddish hue.”

That chonky moon in the sky? Well, that's an interesting trick of the brain, Todd said.

“The bigger-than-usual size of a moon seen near the horizon is a trick your eyes play on you, called 'the moon illusion,' “ he said. “The illusion is a matter of perception, a trick of the brain, which perceives the Moon when seen overhead as closer than the Moon seen at the horizon. When an object is perceived to be nearer, the brain may compensate by making it look smaller to us. Likewise, an object thought to be farther away will be seen as larger.”

Also in the skies is Jupiter still – which has been one heckuva beacon on the beaches of the Washington and Oregon coastline the last few months. Look for Saturn as well. If you've got a telescope, these are good times to drag it out no matter where you are.


Harvest Moon above Waldport - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

“Note the bright planet Jupiter is to the far left of Luna,” Todd said. “Saturn is to the far right, half the brightness of Jupiter. The full moon will set the following Saturday morning, September 30 at 8:41 a.m. to the western horizon.”

If skies are clear in October (as it seems they may be), and you're in areas like Long Beach, Newport or Coos Bay, look up. Early October features some minor meteor showers, according to amsmeteors.org.

There are at least two small showers coinciding in early October, including the beginning of the Orionids. They'll be infrequent for awhile but reach their peak on October 21, so they'll start to pick up steam just before that, and then taper off throughout November.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff have had some extraordinarily good luck with random meteors on beaches late at night, including high vantage points like Neahkahnie Mountain by Manzanita.

Of course, the big astronomy news for the Oregon coast and Washington coast is the Ring of Fire eclipse coming up on October 14. Bandon, Coos Bay, Reedsport and Florence will be the best displays. See the full eclipse article The Great, Big Solar Eclipse Coming to Oregon Coast First: Events, Hotels, Travel Advice, Science

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Comet Neowise above Bandon, courtesy Manuela Durson Fine Arts


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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