Friday is cheap date night, underneath a Wolf moon


For those of you who want spectacular scenery without paying a dime, tonight you may notice something unusual about the moon -- it's huge and glowing gold.

The moon, called a wolf moon, will appear about 30% brighter and 15% bigger, mainly because it's at the closest point to the Earth. The planet Mars will also join the moon in a miniature light show, appearing to the naked eye like a bright orange star nearly as bright as Sirius -- the brightest the planet has been in two years.

The moon will be at its closest at 4:04 a.m. EST Saturday -- only 221,577 miles from Earth. A standard SLR camera with a telephoto lens will be enough to capture the view, and binoculars will help you spot the moon and Mars, as well as a beehive star cluster between the two of them.

According to National Geographic, the large moon is an optical illusion but nonetheless is still reputed to be spectacular, especially near the horizon. This closeness to the earth is called perigee, and will also create higher tides -- making canoodling near the ocean tonight doubly exciting. Scientists say the view at sunset will be even better.

Although there are many full moon myths out there -- including that it causes insanity and werewolves running amok -- the reality is less than conclusive. The werewolf thing really hasn't ever been true. The term "wolf moon" is Native American in origin, taken from the association of wolves howling in the cold winter night.