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The Wolf Moon Rises Over Mendocino County

Pictures and captions by Mendocino County Coast resident Judy Valadao

Last night, the first full Moon of winter hovered over Mendocino County. Images of a glowing smudges were posted onto social media highlighting our smartphone’s inability to capture celestial beauty.

The first Moon after the winter solstice goes by many names, according to NASA’s Gordon Johnston, including the Wolf Moon, Ice Moon, Cold Moon, the Moon after Yule, the Long Night Moon, the Datta Jayanit Moon, Unduvap Poya, and the Chang’e Moon.

The Old Farmers Almanac provides another list of names the Moon goes by amongst Native American tribes that all reflect the cold, dark nights of winter that bears this Moon: “Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki).”

The Old Farmers Almanac indicates that this moon is most distinctive for its high trajectory across the sky, which results in the full moon sitting above the horizon for a longer period of time.

Johnston said the “Wolf Moon” moniker originates from Algonquin tribes of the Eastern United States where wolves would reportedly howl in the cold night. The “Cold Moon” characterization is also said to have originated in Native American cultures reflecting the frigid winter months.

Europeans called the late December orb the “Moon After Yule” because of its proximity to the pre-Christian celebration of the winter solstice, said Johnston

The name “Long Night Moon” refers to the event’s proximity to the Winter Solstice, according to Johnston.

Johnston explained the Moon will be in the sky for a total of 15 hours, 27 minutes, with 14 hours, 31 minutes of this when the sun is down, making the “Long Night Moon” the longest full Moon of the year.

The Hindu tradition refers to the Moon as “Datta Jayanti” marking the birth of the Hindu deity Dattatreya. Buddhists of Sri Lanka refer to the Moon as “Unduvap Poyoa.”

Gazing upon last night’s “Long Night Moon”, know that 2020 will soon be over and the soft glow of the year’s thirteenth full-moon will usher us into 2021.

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