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November 12-13, 2003: Moon at Northernmost Point

Alas, with November waning toward winter, many of us occupying the northern latitudes are alreadly growing nostalgic for the verdant season. Amid the leafless trees and barren terrain, the memory haunts us like a vaguely-remembered dream.

Though we Northerners may feel abandoned by the Sun migrating south with the birds and butterflies, it may behoove us to listen to Joni Mitchell's lyric: something's lost and something's gained in living everyday. Despite the waning daylight, this November presents a Moon that flies higher into the sky than the summer solstice Sun. Why not celebrate Luna reaching her northernmost point for the year on the night of November 12-13?

Two to three hours after sunset on November 12 (depending on your latitude), look for the Moon to rise into the northeast sky. It rises even further north than the Sun in its northernmost trek during summertime. Not only does the Moon climb higher in the sky, its sets further north than the Sun can ever boast.

If you look at the globe, you'll see the tropic of Cancer at about 23.5 degrees North latitude. This represents the northernmost extent of the Sun's travels throughout the year. On the night of November 12-13, the Moon resides at 27 degrees, or about 3.5 degrees north of the tropic of Cancer. It shines directly overhead, or at zenith, at southern Florida and Texas around 3 a.m. local time on November 13. Unlike the Sun, the Moon can cross into the temperate zones beyond the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Again looking at the globe, you'll see the Arctic Circle at about 66.5 degrees, which shows you the southern boundary of the midnight summer sun. On the summer solstice, every place on or north of the Arctic Circle revels in 24 hours of sunlight. But with November's Moon venturing even further north than the solstice Sun, everyplace north of 63 degrees North latitude can expect to bask in 24 hours of moonlight.

Fairbanks, Alaska, which at 65 degrees is a bit south of the Arctic Circle, never gets 24 hours of sunlight, because the Sun dips below the northern horizon at midnight. But this November, Fairbanks has the Moon shining in every cardinal direction, blessing that northern outpost with some five straight days of wondrous moonshine!

copyright 2003 by Bruce McClure

November 2003 Feature: November 8-9 Total Lunar Eclipse