There’s something about the full moon in October that is especially mystical.
Many people, including myself, believe that the full moon is responsible for erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights at professional hockey games, dog bites, insomnia and all manner of strange events. While men of science may scoff at this belief, most of us have a full moon story or two.
Native Americans called this moon the Hunter’s Moon, which isn’t spooky at all. It was also called the Blood Moon, which is much more satisfying.
The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. The Hunter’s Moon historically served as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.
October’s full moon has a bonus in store for this year.
A penumbral lunar eclipse — so called because only the incomplete outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, or penumbra, falls across the moon — is expected to reach its deepest point at 7:50 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 18.
Unlike total eclipses, in which Earth’s umbra — the central region of its shadow — darkens the moon entirely, a penumbral lunar eclipse involves only a slight dimming. Skywatchers should expect to see a much more subtle sight — with a shadow on the lower half of the full moon — like the eclipse pictured below.
With the autumnal equinox set to fall on Sept. 22, the 2013 Harvest Moon will be in full bloom tonight.
The term “Harvest Moon” or “Corn Moon,” is used to describe the full moon that occurs closest to fall’s equinox. For skywatchers in North America, the full moon is expected to rise shortly after sunset (depending on your location) on Sept. 18 and will peak at 7:13 a.m. EDT the next morning.
The Harvest Moon will be especially visible during the overnight hours, even though it won’t actually be “full” until Thursday morning.
As EarthSky explains:
No matter where you are on Earth, this full moon – and every full moon – ascends over your eastern horizon around the time of sunset. It’s always highest in the sky in the middle of the night, when the sun is below your feet. That’s because a full moon is opposite the sun. Being opposite the sun, the moon is showing us its fully lighted hemisphere, or “day” side. That’s what makes the moon look full.
However, the almost full Harvest Moon should also be visible for North American viewers on Thursday night, when the moon will turn full for observers in Asia.
The annual celestial sight was dubbed the “Harvest Moon” because its light allowed farmers in the Northern Hemisphere to harvest their crops for several hours more into the night, Farmers’ Almanac notes.
Tonight’s full moon is a Blue Moon — it’s also the Full Sturgeon Moon, the Full Red Moon, the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.
This full moon qualifies as a Blue Moon because it’s the third full moon in a season with four (most seasons have only three). The moon’s extra names come from traditional monikers for the full moon of a given month. A few hundred years ago, Native American tribes in what’s now the northeastern United States kept track of seasons by ascribing particular names to each full moon. Later, European settlers added their own names for the full moons to the lexicon.
The annual August full moon has come to be known as the Full Sturgeon Moon, because the large fish called sturgeon can most easily be caught at this time of year. The name came from tribes who caught this fish in bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.
Another name for this month’s full moon is the Full Red Moon, because the weather and atmospheric conditions during this season can often make the moon look reddish when it rises through a haze.
And finally, because crops grow tall at this time of year, this month’s moon is sometimes called the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.
Blue Moons don’t happen too often, which is why the phrase “once in a Blue Moon,” has sprung up to mean only very rarely. After tonight’s event, the next Blue Moon isn’t set to occur until 2015.
Tonight is the third full moon after the March equinox. In North America we often call this particular full moon the Flower Moon. It is also called the Rose Moon or Strawberry Moon. Plus the moon is at its lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth for this month. By a newly coined popular definition, that makes this May 25 full moon a supermoon.
What’s a supermoon? It’s a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.
The first “super” full moon for 2013 is coming up tonight. There are only4-6 supermoons a year on average.
There will be three supermoons in a row coming up over these next three months in 2013: May 25, June 23, July 22, with the June full moon being the most “super”.
Don’t miss out on the great planetary trio of May 2013. When three planets meet up in the same part of the sky, coming less than 5o degrees of one another, the grouping is called a planetary trio. This month’s planetary trio is the first since May 2011 and the last until October 2015.
A typical binocular field covers about 5o degrees of sky. If you have binoculars, take them along with you to see tonight’s planetary trio – the planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter – in a single binocular field. If you don’t have binoculars, view the evening tableau anyway for these beautiful and brilliant planets should be visible to the unaided eye.
All three planets will be about 3o degrees apart as evening dusk falls on May 25, 26 and 27. That’s about the width of your thumb at an arm length. Look for all three worlds to pop out into the deepening dusk around 40 to 60 minutes after sunset. With binoculars, you can spot the close-knit group of planets all the sooner in the glow of sunset.
This weekend, nights are lit by the waxing (increasing) gibbous (larger than half) moon, to be experienced as a sequence that culminates on Monday, February 25th, when the Full Snow Moon arrives at full phase at 3:26 p.m.
At that moment the side of the moon facing Earth will be fully lit because the moon will be opposite from the sun in its orbit around the Earth. Earth will be in the middle without blocking the sun’s light from reaching the moon: eclipses are infrequent because sun, earth and moon do not often precisely align.
The moment of full moon is different from its local rising time. Luna appears wholly round for about 24 hours, when it is rising and setting opposite the sun.
The Full Snow Moon rises on Monday, Feb. 25 at 5:51 p.m. in the east moments after sunset at 5:38 p.m. in the west-southwest. On the morning of Feb. 26, moonset in the west is at 6:33 a.m. opposite sunrise, which will be in the east-southeast at 6:34 a.m.
Nearly full moonlight shines during most of the 13 hours of darkness into the new week even though the waning (decreasing) gibbous moon rises close to an hour later each night.
February’s full Moon is traditionally called the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows fall in February.
Because hunting was difficult, some Native American tribes called this the Hunger Moon.
Other Native American tribes called this Moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans), the “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans), and the “Bone Moon” (Cherokee Native Americans). The Bone Moon meant that there was so little food that people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow soup.
The Full Wolf Moon, the first full moon of 2013, will light up the night sky tonight (Jan. 26) at 11:38 p.m. EST.
According the the Farmers Almanac, full moon names date back to Native American tribes of a few hundred years ago who lived in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.
The Farmers Almanac states that Indians named the first moon of the year the Full Wolf Moon because of the wolf packs that howled hungrily outside their villages in the heart of winter. It is also called the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule.
Other sources disagree and allege that “Full Wolf Moon” comes from the ancient Scottish Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, which means “wolf month”.
Whatever the derivation, few would disagree that Full Wolf Moon is a good name for the moon that illuminates the frosty white nights of midwinter.