The moon was big and lovely the other night.
I didn’t check, but it may have been at its perigee, the point at which its elliptical
orbit brings it closest to us. That word and its opposite, apogee, refer to any planetary body in relation to Earth, not specifically the moon, and they’ve stuck with me since my highly enjoyable 6th-grade astronomy/geology class. Likewise, the more euphonious terms for our proximity to the sun over the course of Earth’s annual revolution: perihelion and aphelion (pronounced not “app-heel-yin” but “uh-feel-yin”; think the Irene Cara song from Flashdance). Wikipedia gives terminology for the distances of objects orbiting various heavenly bodies at the entry for apsis, and there are a trinity
of pairings variously used to describe something — a NASA lunar shuttle, say — in orbit around the moon.
Our full moon the other night was a Buck Moon, I learned from the 11 o’clock news,
as July is when deer push out new antlers. The only full-moon nomenclature I’d known before this was October’s Harvest Moon, thanks perhaps to its continued relevance or simply my affinity for my birth month. You can find a complete list of the full moons’ traditional titles and variants at the Farmers Almanac website or the National Weather Service page from which the above image of a Harvest Moon was taken.
I referred to the low, big, golden moon as a paper moon when describing it to my mother and had thought the term came from such a moon’s curious resemblance to (despite its actual enormous density) the rice paper aglow in a paper lantern. This would seem to not exactly be the case; the term paper moon refers to a spherical paper lantern — meaning that the kind of moon we call a paper moon has, in life imitating
art imitating life, been named after a paper lantern that resembles a moon.
The moon has inspired numerous evocative songs which, along with the haunting beauty of the moon in our sky itself, strike me as more moving than the desolation of the moon’s surface, setting of the new film Moon. But more on that in my next post.
Related: The Skies as Clark Kent • One to Tentacle • It’s SuperMoon