Tonight will be the biggest, brightest full moon of the year

Friday's full moon – or the wolf moon – will be larger than any other in 2010. Here's why.

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    On Friday, the full moon will be the biggest of the year – 14 percent wider and 30 percent brighter.
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If you're a fan of the moon and Mars, tonight's a twofer: You'll see the biggest, brightest full moon of the year, and Mars will appear at its biggest and brightest in the past 780 days.

Friday's moon will be 30 percent brighter and 14 percent wider than a full moon at the opposite time of year.

The reasons: The moon traces an elliptical orbit around Earth, and tonight Ol' Luna will be at its closest point with respect to Earth; and Mars will be in opposition -- opposite the sun when viewed from Earth, and thus as close to the third rock from the sun as it ever gets. (No, it will never, ever – not even close – look as big as the full moon.) However, if you want a comparison, astronomers say the red planet will appear nearly as bright as Sirius, the star with the highest apparent brightness in the night sky.

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Over at Space.com, the resident skywatchers have unearthed a list of names some Native American nations gave the full moons appearing in a given month. Tonight's spectacular is the full Wolf moon. (Don't tell your pet dog, it might be too hard to get him/her back in after a nocturnal walk.) You can find the full list of named moons here.

Speaking of the moon, you may recall reading about a solar eclipse back in January. Folks in Asia and Africa have the best seats in the house. Well, almost. The European Space Agency has just released a video of the eclipse, as seen by its Proba-2 spacecraft.

It's actually a testbed for some new spacecraft technologies. But scientists are pretty clever at piggy-backing instruments onto "experimental" craft. In this case, they were able to loft some sun-watching instruments. The video essentially is a flip book of images taken once each minute during the eclipse. Enjoy.

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Did the moon look bigger to you? Let us know in the comments, and keep up with the latest sci-tech news on our Twitter feed.

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