Perigee syzygy. Say that 10 times fast: “PEAR-eh-jee SIZ-eh-jee.”

It isn’t a biological term, but an astrological one. And, it happened on the first day of 2018. If you howled at the full “wolf” moon rising on New Year’s Day, then you witnessed it first hand. We made a special trip out to the boat launch at Mere Point to watch the giant orange moon rising up above the frozen bay. It was a magical way to celebrate the New Year.

Aside from being fun to say, perigee syzygy is a particularly unusual event. In fact, it is the alignment of two unusual events – a perigee and a syzygy. When the moon is in perigee, it is at its closest point to the Earth – some 30,000 miles closer than when it is in apogee and at its furthest point from the Earth. That’s why it is called a super moon – it can look 14 percent bigger than your average full moon.

A syzygy is when three bodies in a solar system are lined up – in this case the moon, the earth and the sun. So, on New Year’s day, the moon was not only at its closest point to Earth, but it was also lined up with the sun.

It was pretty amazing to see the moon rise as the sun was setting, the orange and reds of sunset reflecting in the extra giant moon. Seeing this reflection on the white of ice and snow was even more stunning.

The ice covering the water makes things seem deceptively still. But, all of this alignment creates a massive gravitational power. That creates some unusually huge tides, which means that there is a lot of water movement happening under that seemingly still and frozen surface.

But, what exactly happens when all the water moves under the surface ice? When it is as cold as it has been, even all the water movement underneath doesn’t break up the surface. Water temperatures are way down around 34 F right now. As far as impacts on the marine life below, they are all pretty much in a state of inactivity due to the cold and are snuggled down in the deeper water that is actually warmer than the surface in the wintertime. So, the giant tides likely didn’t cause them too much concern.

But, in the intertidal area along the shore, you can see the results of the giant tidal changes. Here, sheets of salt ice form at low tide and then are broken apart as the water comes back in underneath them.

When they settle back down, they are re-deposited in whimsical sculptural forms that make for great exploration (although, you have to be mindful of where you are in the tide cycle so as not to slip through a crack into a pool of ice water).

At moonrise on New Year’s Day, the tide was quite low, at 1.8 feet below mean low water, which made for safe climbing. It was especially fun to slide down the ice, but we could have used Crampons to make our way back up.

The tide then reached its highest and lowest points on the next day, which is often the case following a full moon – 11.8 feet high and -2 feet low. This is the biggest difference on record for Wilson Cove in Middle Bay.

If you missed the first full moon of January, there is another one coming. This one will be on the last day of the month, Jan. 31. This moon will be a red blue moon. It will actually look red, not blue – a blue moon is so named when there are two full moons in the same month. The red color is due to the lunar eclipse occurring that night. Our atmosphere bends red sunlight around into Earth’s shadow and scatters out blue light much like we see at sunset, making the moon look orange-red.

In learning a bit more about the neat lunar events happening this month, and perhaps because of the lunar look to the frozen water, I have come to look at the seascape a bit differently – as a place just as mysterious as other planets.

And yet, it is so closely connected to their movements as to remind us of our own place in it all.