Moonrise over D.C. in winter

Moonrise on Feb. 28, 2010

The full moon will rise this weekend at nearly 90 degrees azimuth for those in Washington, D.C. That means the moon will be almost directly to the east. Since the National Mall and many of its famous monuments and buildings align along an east-west axis, the astronomical phenomenon promises stunning moonrises from places like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Netherlands Carillon as the moon slowly rises behind or next to the U.S. Capitol. If the expected clouds abate on Friday and the weather holds out, that is.

As you can see from these photos of near-90 azimuth moonrises last year, the moon looks great near the horizon when looking east across the Mall. Here are the stats for the weekend:

On Friday, the nearly-full moon will rise in D.C. at 6:23 p.m. EDT at 89 degrees azimuth (source). On Saturday, the full moon rises at 7:39 p.m. at 97 degrees azimuth.

And if the full moon due east isn’t enough to pique your geeky astronomical interest, this weekend’s moon will be a big and bright moon. Saturday, the full moon is at perigee — its closest approach to earth. This perigee is the closest the moon will get to the Earth for all of 2011: 221,575 miles (356,575 kilometers). That’s 31,064 miles closer than the moon was on March 6, according to EarthSky. EarthSky says Saturday’s full moon will be its closest encounter with the Earth since Dec. 12, 2008, and the closest it will be until Nov. 14, 2016.

For photographers interested in capturing the event, outside the Lincoln Memorial and the Netherlands Carillon should be good places to set up your tripod. (Tip: You might want to get to the Carillon early to stake out an unobstructed spot for your tripod. It’s a popular place for full moon photos. Note that the path in front of the bronze lions is a popular one with joggers, bikers and pedestrians, so get your siteline set up with that in mind.)

As far as weather goes, the current forecast calls for partly cloudy Friday around moonrise with a slight chance of rain. But sometimes a low cloud layer can make for great photos if the clouds aren’t dense. Saturday also promises to be partly cloudy with some rain possible in the morning. But the clouds are supposed to clear by moonrise. Saturday promises to be the better day for weather but with the 97 degrees azimuth, perhaps less-stunning photos (more like the one below).

Moonrise over D.C. on Aug. 25, 2010
Moonrise on Aug. 25, 2010

I’m looking forward to some beautiful moonrises this weekend. Share the moment with someone you love — but hey, take the camera. If you grab some good photos, please send me a link in the comments.