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CINDY DAY: Calling all backyard astronomers

Michael Boschat's patience paid off one evening in May when the clouds pushed off just enough to reveal a first quarter moon and brilliant Venus.
Michael Boschat's patience paid off one evening in May when the clouds pushed off just enough to reveal a first quarter moon and brilliant Venus. - Contributed

Did you know that the moon is 10 times brighter when it is full than when it is in a quarter phase?

You can check it out this weekend. The moon will officially become full Sunday, Aug. 26, at 8:56 a.m. ADT. For us here in the east, that's after moonset, but that’s OK - the “just past full” moon won’t be noticeably smaller when it rises again around 8 p.m. Sunday evening.

As is so often the case, this month’s full moon has many names. I grew up knowing it as the full corn moon, but it’s also known as the full sturgeon moon and the full grain moon.

What else will you be able to see?

You’ll have to be up early for this one! At about 5 a.m. Sunday morning, Mercury will be near its greatest angular distance from the sun: 18.3 degrees. How far is that? A clenched fist at arm’s length measures about 10 degrees. Look for it in low on the eastern horizon. This will be an excellent pre-dawn apparition of the innermost planet!

If you’d rather sleep in, Venus will be an “evening star.” Soon after sunset, the -4.6-magnitude planet will be visible against the sky, even though it will not be completely dark yet. By the way, the lower the magnitude, the brighter the object appears in the sky. Venus sets just after 10 p.m. in the western sky.

There’s more.

Mars will rise at 7:20 p.m. Sunday evening and won’t set until just after 4 a.m. the next morning. Look for it in the southeastern sky. For the next couple weeks, Mars will outshine Jupiter as the second-brightest planet and become the third-brightest object in the night sky.

Speaking of Jupiter, it too will be well placed for evening viewing. Look for it in the southwest before it sets around midnight ADT.

And finally, and perhaps I’m burying the lead here, according to Grandma, a full moon is considered unlucky if it occurs on a Sunday, but lucky on Monday or moon day.

It might be a good day to search for a four-leaf clover!

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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