In any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year. When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices. The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices. [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]
During the month, the moon rises at different points across the eastern horizon. When it reaches the farthest point north it pauses, or rises in the same spot for a couple of days, and then reverses course. This pause is called a “Lunar Standstill”. The same thing happens two weeks later at its farthest point south. You may have noticed that the sun does the same thing, but it takes the sun a year to move from its farthest point north (Summer Solstice) to its farthest point south (Winter Solstice) and back again. At each solstice, the sun pauses before reversing course and this is called a Solar Standstill. [refer to last week’s article: Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill]
Have you noticed how fast the earth has been moving lately? Probably not, but in fact the earth moves faster in the winter than in the summer. The reason is because the earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit, not circular, so as the earth gets closer to the sun it speeds up and as it flies away from the sun it slows down. In North America, the winter half of the year is approximately eight days shorter than the summer half.