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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

July's Full Buck Moon Precedes Full Blue Moon

I'm sure you've noticed the waxing Moon in the sky over the last few days. Even though it appeared nearly full and brilliant last night, the Full Buck Moon happens at 10:20 p.m. EDT Wednesday. Unfortunately, our skies will be mostly cloudy tomorrow evening, but we'll have another chance to see the full moon the last day of the month.

The "Blue Moon" happens July 31. There are, in fact, two definitions for a blue moon. According to the more recent definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. For a blue moon to occur, the first of the full moons must appear at or near the beginning of the month so that the second will fall within the same month (the average span between two moons is 29.5 days).

The older definition, which is recorded in early issues of the Maine Farmer's Almanac, states that the blue moon is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. Why would one want to identify the third full moon in a season of four full moons? The answer is complex, and has to do with the Christian ecclesiastical calendar.

So, how did July's full moon get its name? It is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer rush out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It is also often called the Full Thunder Moon, since thunderstorms are common during this time of the year. Another name for this month’s Moon is the Full Hay Moon.

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans in what is now the Northern and Eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring Full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

A Full Moon rises at about the same time the Sun is setting. Since the length of daylight is about 15 hours and six minutes tomorrow, the Full Moon will rise later and set earlier this time of the year. In addition, the Full Moon will appear lower in the sky since it won’t be visible nearly as long as during the mid-Winter nights.

For example, the Moon rises at 7:57 Wednesday evening and sets at 6:07 Thursday morning. That means the Moon will be visible for 10 hours and 10 minutes. Conversely, six months from now in January when the amount of daylight is at a minimum, the Full Wolf Moon will appear higher in the sky and be visible for about 17-and-half-hours. That’s over eight hours longer than this time of the year!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tornado Ripped Through Bridgeport Five Years Ago Today

It only took a matter of minutes, but a violent thunderstorm spawned a tornado which ripped through the Greater Bridgeport area three years ago today, resulting in much damage, destruction, and a loss of electricity for thousands. A powerful cold front collided with a hot and humid air mass to set the stage for a Tornado Warning and a strong thunderstorm cell between 2 and 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon, June 24, 2010.

The temperature soared to 90 degrees for the second day in a row at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford that day, but the dew point --- or moisture content in the atmosphere --- was extremely high. As the front approached, the sky darkened, the heavens opened up, and vivid lightning along with hurricane-force wind gusts ripped through the Park City. Here is a photo of Washington Park in Bridgeport taken by one of our viewers, Melissa, following the storm.


There was dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning and a wind gust of 78 miles-an-hour in Bridgeport. The average wind speed during the height of the storm was 43 miles-an-hour. Nearly a half-inch of rain fell in a short period of time, resulting in some minor flooding of low-lying areas. But, it was the wind damage which caused a state of emergency to be declared in Bridgeport. Take a look at this picture of a fallen tree in the Park City taken by Takina.


Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and former Governor Jodi Rell arrived on the scene to survey the damage from the storm. "It looks like Godzilla went through and ripped roofs off and threw cars around and tore wires down," Finch said as he spoke with reporters and residents who had gathered in the streets. "I mean, it's really amazing," he added. Shelley sent two photos of the damage on East Main Street.



Bethany sent the following photo of downtown Bridgeport.


Personally, my family and I ran to the basement that afternoon once we heard a Tornado Warning was issued and the skies darkened. In a matter of minutes, the wind began to howl and heavy rain fell. My sons were worried that a tornado would rip apart our home. Not unexpectedly, the power went out, but the storm exited shortly thereafter. We didn't get our electricity back until just before midnight. Here's one more photo taken by Amanda of minor flooding on James Street in Bridgeport.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Solstice Happens Early This Afternoon

Ask any child when Summer begins, and he or she will undoubtedly respond with the date of the last day of school. Ask an adult and his or her answer is most likely either June 20 or June 21. In case you're wondering, the Summer Solstice happens today in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:38 p.m. EDT.

That’s when the Sun’s rays will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer, marking their northernmost point on the face of the Earth. The Sun rises at 5:19 a.m. and sets at 8:30 p.m., which is the latest Sunset during the year. We’ll enjoy 15 hours and 11 minutes of Sunlight on the first day of Summer.

Two days later, the Sun rises at 5:20, and the days begin to get “shorter” once again. Remember, since the first day of Summer is “the longest day” of the year, the days actually become shorter by the end of the month and the remainder of the Summer.

So, why does the Summer Solstice actually happen? Well, the seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. Because the Earth rotates like a gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed position constantly, while the Earth is revolving around the Sun. During one half of the year, the Northern Hemisphere has more exposure to the Sun than the Southern Hemisphere, while the reverse is true during the other half of the year. At noontime, the Sun appears high in the sky during Summertime, and when the Sun reaches its maximum elevation, or angle, in the sky, that’s when the Summer Solstice happens.

Summer_smallSummer was a joyous time of the year in prehistoric times for the Aboriginal people who lived in the Northern latitudes. The snow had melted, the ground thawed out, and warm temperatures returned. Flowers were in full bloom, and leaves had returned to the trees. More important, food was easier to find, and crops had been planted and would be harvested for months to come. The Full Moon is June is called the Full Honey Moon. Tradition dictates that this is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.

This time of the year, between the planting and harvesting of crops, is the traditional time for weddings because many ancient peoples believed that the grand union of the goddess and god occurred in early May. Since it was unlucky to compete with the gods, many people delayed their weddings until June. Today, June remains a favorite month for marriage.

Native Americans have constructed many stone structures linked to the Equinoxes and Solstices. Many are still standing today. One of them is called Calendar One. It is a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and other markers around the edge of the bowl. “At the Summer Solstice, the Sun rose at the southern peak of the East ridge and set at a notch at the southern end of the West ridge.” The Winter Solstice and both equinoxes were similarly marked.

I’d love to be at Calendar One today. The start of each of the four seasons carries more significance to this writer than New Year’s Day, which, in essence, is an arbitrary day on the calendar. Summer is here, and that is reason to celebrate in the Northern Hemisphere.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Full Strawberry Moon Happens Just After Noon Today

The Full Strawberry Moon happens just after noon today at 12:19 p.m. The name was was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. The relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June, so the Full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!


The June Full Moon is also called a Honey Moon in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly because it never gets very high in the sky. When we gaze toward the Full Moon tonight, we are seeing it through more of the Earth’s atmosphere than when the Moon is overhead. The atmosphere reddens its color.

The Full Moon is especially low in the Northern Hemisphere because it occurs just about a week before the Summer Solstice. The Full Moon is opposite the Sun in the sky. Therefore, when the Sun is higher in the Summer sky, the Full Moon is lower. Every Full Moon stands more or less opposite the Sun in our sky. That’s why the Moon looks full.

Around the world tonight, the Moon will rise around sunset, climb to its highest point around midnight, and set close to sunrise. As seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the Moon – like the December Solstice Sun – will rise far South of due East and set far South of due West.

North of the Arctic Circle, tonight’s Moon – like the Winter Sun – will be too far South to climb above the horizon. Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere – where it’s Winter now – tonight’s Moon will mimic the Summer Sun, arcing high in the heavens. South of the Antarctic Circle, the Moon will simulate the midnight Sun – up all hours around the clock.