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Dennis Mammana


Star Names Week of Nov. 23-29, 2014 With the holiday season barreling toward us like an out-of-control sleigh, you've probably been hearing and seeing ads to have a star named after someone special. Now I have nothing against the free enterprise system. But I, …Read more. Journey from Andromeda Week of Nov. 16-22, 2014 A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a beam of light began its journey across the cosmos. At the remarkable speed of 186,282 miles per second, this beam could orbit our planet nearly 450 times in just one minute. But …Read more. The Falling Stars of November Week of Nov. 9-15, 2014 Anyone who has ever gazed into a dark night sky for more than just a few minutes has almost certainly seen a burst of light appearing out of nowhere, and disappearing just as quickly. We call such startling phenomena romantic …Read more. Chasing Down Mercury Week of Nov. 2-8, 2014 Mercury is one of those planets we rarely see. Unlike Venus, which can dominate our sky with its brilliance, or Jupiter, Mars or Saturn that can shine brightly all night long, Mercury appears for only a few weeks each year and,…Read more.
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The Final Full Moon of 2014


Week of Nov. 30 — Dec. 6, 2014

The year's final full moon comes at 4:27 a.m. PST (7:27 a.m. EST) on Saturday, Dec. 6. However, when it rises over the northeastern sky on the night before or after, it will be a beautiful sight.

To the eye, the full moon commands great respect. Not only does its rising orb appear much larger than it actually is — an effect called the "moon illusion" — but its brilliance obliterates all but the brightest stars and planets. It's truly hard not to pay attention to the full moon!

But what most beginning sky watchers don't realize is that the full moon is the absolute worst time to view our nearest cosmic neighbor with a telescope, since the sun's direct rays cast few shadows on its surface and give it a rather flat appearance.

Binoculars or the naked eye, however, may reveal some fascinating features. For example, we see that the lunar surface is not uniformly bright but, instead, has a mottled appearance.

The lighter areas are mountainous or heavily cratered terrain of higher elevation, and we call them the "lunar highlands." The darker areas are roughly circular in shape and cover much of the moon's face. Some ancient sky watchers believed these were lunar oceans, and named them "mare" or "seas," a name they still carry today, even though we know the moon is a totally dry and barren world.

We also know that the mare are huge plains of solidified magma that welled up from deep within the moon after violent impacts during its early evolution, and flooded the lowest terrain.

Many of these features still carry the poetic names of antiquity such as the Sea of Nectar and Ocean of Storms. Perhaps most famous of these is the Sea of Tranquility, made famous by the Apollo XI mission that landed the first astronaut on the moon in 1969. It lies on its westernmost side, and appears near the top of the rising moon.

It is the interplay between the lighter lunar highlands and the darker mare that creates another illusion we call "the man in the moon." Some imagine that the two lunar plains — the Sea of Serenity and the Sea of Tranquility — make up his left eye, while the Sea of Rains forms his right eye. A mountain range known as the Apennine Mountains forms the bridge of the man's nose and, below, a collection of seas form his large, crooked smile.

At least that's what people tell me. If you can make out a man's face from this maze of light and dark, you're doing much better than I. I can see a man sitting in a chair reading a book, as well as a rabbit — and even a frog. But no man's face.

Watch the moon later this week and see what patterns you might be able to find among its geological features. See if you can trace the profile of a pony-tailed young lady wearing a diamond pendant. Why she looks to me like Wilma Flintstone is anyone's guess. ... I'll just leave it to all the amateur psychologists out there to figure out what this cosmic Rorschach test says about me.

Visit Dennis Mammana at To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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