Full moon arrives Saturday, March 31, at 8:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Alas, it won’t be “full” by the time night arrives as seen from the U.S., but it will still be called “full.” It is hard to tell the difference!

The gloriously bright full moon varies month to month, since the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle around our globe. At times its closest point (called “perigee”) happens to occur at full moon (not this time); this is when it called a “super moon” since it is slightly bigger and brighter. The moon’s farthest point is called “apogee.”

On average our lunar companion is 238,855 miles. Its farthest point is 252,088 miles; its nearest, 225,623.

I still have a ways to go in my old car but it’s catching up.

It took three days or so for the Apollo astronauts to reach the moon.

The quickest trip as far as the moon, so far, was the New Horizons probe, which zipped past in only eight hours and 35 minutes on the way to Pluto.

Yet it takes sunlight only 1. 3 seconds, reflecting off the moon, to reach our eyes.

There certainly is a limit to how quickly any future astronauts could arrive on the moon and still live to tell about it. The 238,000 mile gap between the Earth and moon isn’t very far when you consider having to brake, to slow down enough to enter orbit.

On March 31st, the full moon will be 235,871.8 miles from the Earth. That’s from the center of the Earth, so you’d need to subtract half Earth’s diameter to find out how far the moon is from YOU. That brings the moon down to “only” 231,913 miles give or take!

It’s a wonder just to gaze upon the moon with eyes alone.

The moon offers its lovely “face” depicting for many the “Man in the Moon.” The moon appears so smooth  to our eyes, although it is quite rugged. Even binoculars will begin to show the jagged mountains and abundant craters, but you need to have the binoculars secure on a tripod, or held firm against a fence or other object.

At full moon, however, the sunlight is directed straight back at you, so there is a lack of shadows to help make mountain ranges, craters and other features stand out.

When the moon is not full, you can see the lunar terrain in sharp relief along the boundary between the lit side of the moon and the dark. This boundary is referred to as the “terminator.”

The view in the telescope will also vary depending on the sky conditions. Very often, the atmosphere will be turbulent. The “seeing” is affected, and high magnifications will not work well. At rare times, the atmosphere becomes steady, and the amount of detail you can pick can be stunning.

On rare occasions, while staring at the moon in a telescope, you may see a flock of geese go by in silhouette, or even the space station or a jet airliner. I once watched a V-formation of geese cross the moon. They were so distant, the whole formation fit within the moon’s disc. It was a beautiful sight.

If you have a telescope, look at the moon at its full stage for slight shadowing along one side of the moon. The moon may be actually only 99.9 percent full. The only time it is 100 percent full, the moon isn’t even bright. That’s because the moon is in total lunar eclipse, engulfed in the Earth’s shadow, exactly (or almost exactly) opposite the Earth from the sun.

Keep looking up!

— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.