The full moon can be a stunning sight in the night sky, but did you know it can dance?
A new time-lapse video from astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy has just shown this, with the full moon appearing to dance across the sky for an entire year. There’s no gimmicks involved, just the moon flickering in its orbit around Earth, McCarthy wrote on Reddit (opens in a new tab)where he shared the video as an animation on July 24.
“The moon’s perceived wobble is called ‘libration,’ and is the result of the moon’s not-quite-circular orbit,” McCarthy wrote. (opens in a new tab). “The rotation is partly due to the Moon’s orbit forming an angle with the ecliptic, as well as the Earth’s axial tilt.”
McCarthy took a picture of Arizona’s full or nearly full moon every month for a year when it was highest in the sky instead of when it was exactly full in order to accurately capture the lunar libration. He also worked to preserve the scale of the moon so it would appear the same size in the video.
Related: Incredible photos of the 2022 Buck Moon supermoon by astronomers
McCarthy also created a video of the moon changes in a single lunar month, which he shared on Instagram. This video is made up of “2 million photos of the moon over 26 days to see how it danced,” McCarthy wrote in that post. (opens in a new tab) from March 9.
In his Reddit post, McCarthy said he’s photographed nearly every full moon in the past three years. You can see more examples of her amazing night sky photography on her Instagram page (opens in a new tab), where he publishes as Cosmic Background. McCarthy also has a professional Cosmic Background website (opens in a new tab) where you can order prints of his astrophotography.
McCarthy’s moon libration video animation offers stunning insight into how the moon changes over time from month to month in its orbit. On average, the distance from the Earth to the Moon is about 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers). Since the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, there are places in the orbit where it is closest to Earth and others where it is further away.
At perigee, the moon is closest to Earth during the month, at a distance of about 226,000 miles (363,300 km). The moon is farthest when it reaches apogee, which is about 251,000 miles (405,500 km) from Earth. The moon is also currently moving away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) per year.
Our in-depth moon-spotting guide can also help you plan your next photoshoot of Earth’s lunar neighbor. If you’re looking for a telescope or binoculars to observe the moon, our guides to the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals are a great place to start. Our best cameras for astrophotography and our best lenses for astrophotography have helpful tips on the gear you’ll need to capture the next view of the sky yourself.
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org (opens in a new tab) or follow him @Team game (opens in a new tab). Follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab), AFvsEbook (opens in a new tab) and instagram (opens in a new tab).