Full moon fun

Dazzling as it was in the night sky, the full moon that rose over Minot Wednesday evening wasn’t really a full moon at all.

To be precise, full moon actually occurred at 2:17 Wednesday afternoon. When the moon rose at 9:23 p.m. it was actually a waning moon. While seasoned astronomers peering through powerful telescopes might notice the difference, it was too slight to be noticed by the human eye.

Full moon in May has been known by various cultures by many names throughout history. Most common today is the Flower Moon or Budding Moon, which reflects the start of the growing season. While beliefs surrounding full moon in May can be traced back for centuries, the power and influence of the Flower Moon was noted by the U.S. Government as late as the 1870’s.

Elizabeth Custer, wife of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, was stationed with her husband at Fort Abraham Lincoln from 1873 to 1876. The fort was new in 1873, barren of trees and, despite several attempts, devoid of lush grass growing on the parade ground.

In her later writings, Custer revealed that an appeal had been made to the “Referee on Agriculture” in Washington, D.C. for advice on how to get grass to grow. The Referee’s response was to sew the seed on the parade ground under the full moon.

The moon, particularly a full moon, has always provoked a lot of interest and spawned countless theories. Writers have often referenced the full moon, sometimes portraying it as having the power to spawn ghosts and legendary werewolves. Hollywood loved the theme, using dark actors like Vincent Price and Lon Chaney to bring a sense of realism to horror movie audiences.

Noted writer Robert Louis Stevenson, whose novels included “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” often invoked the unknown power of the full moon in his writings. In a Stevenson poem titled “Full Moon,” one verse reads:

“The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,

The howling dog by the door of the house,

The bat that lies in bed at noon,

All love to be out by the light of the moon.”

The allure of the full moon never seems to wane. Fishermen and hunters often include the solunar tables in their planning. Ocean tides are influenced by the moon. When something seems a bit whacky or someone believes a particular person’s behavior is out of the norm, the observation might be soon followed by the statement, “It must be a full moon.”

The moon remains the only heavenly body ever visited by man. Not that it is a friendly place. Temperatures on the moon range from more than 200 degrees above zero in daylight to more than 200 degrees below zero at night.

The May moon is known for more than planting seeds and empowering werewolves. It also blocks earthlings’ view of Saturn for about an hour. The rarity is known as the occultation of Saturn.

There are a few more moon related events of note yet to come in May. On May 17 no moonrise will occur in the Minot sky, an oddity. The new moon, or dark moon, begins at 1:41 p.m. May 28.

The next full moon over Minot, the “Strawberry Moon,” occurs at 11:13 p.m. June 12.