The Full Hunter’s Moon – Friday, October 18, 2013

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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.

Hunter's Moon

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.

PHILIPPINES LUNAR ECLIPSE

Shine On Harvest Moon

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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.

Blue Moon

Tonight's "Blue Moon" is More Likely to be Red...

Tonight’s “Blue Moon” is More Likely to be Red…

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.

The Full Flower Moon

Full Flower Moon

Full Flower Moon

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.

Supermoon

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.

Planetary Trio

Planetary Trio

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.

The Full Snow Moon

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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

full wolf moon

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.

The Beaver Moon

November 28 marks the last full moon before the formal arrival of winter.  It is known in folklore as the Beaver Moon.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the Beaver Moon marked the time for setting beaver traps so there would be a sufficient supply of fur for the upcoming winter months. The beavers themselves are preparing for winter around this time of year. This full moon has also been called the frosty moon.

The November 2012 full moon will be the smallest of the year. It will also be accompanied by a subtle penumbra eclipse, during which the moon passes through the light penumbral shadow surrounding the umbra. The umbra is the darkest shadow of the moon cast by the Earth.

A penumbral lunar eclipse is not as obvious as an umbral eclipse of the moon because the moon does not pass directly across the Earth’s shadow. Although the penumbral eclipse will last for over four and one-half hours, viewers will only be likely to notice a slight shading on the north side of the moon for up to an hour or so, centered at the time of greatest eclipse (14:33 UTC).

The farther west and north you live in North America, the better your chances of catching the subtle shadow on the moon before dawn on November 28. The farther east or north you are in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere, the better your chances of seeing the penumbral eclipse after nightfall on November 28. It will take until at least 70% of the moon’s diameter is immersed within the Earth’s penumbral shadow before the eclipse even becomes noticeable. At the time of greatest eclipse on November 28, the penumbral shadow will cover nearly 92% of the moon’s diameter.

No penumbral eclipse will be visible for the east coast of the United States, central and South America, and western parts of the African continent.

The Harvest Moon

This weekend brings the beautiful Harvest Moon!

The Harvest Moon is the name for the full moon that is closest to the autumnal equinox, which came on Sept. 22 this year.

Here’s what that means for the non-astronomers among us.

On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when the full moon occurs near the fall equinox, the gaps between moonrises are shorter. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the moon rises about 30 minutes later each night. This happens before and after the full moon, resulting in three consecutive days of the moon appearing at nearly the same time.

The early evening moonrises means the Moon shines brightly during early evening for several extra days running — traditionally providing welcome light just when busy farmers needed the extra work hours to get in their crops.

The Harvest Moon may look bigger and seem closer, but it’s not. It’s just another Celestial Grand Illusion!

Once In A Blue Moon

I love full moons!

For some reason they are very difficult to photograph. In this picture, the moon looks tiny, but to my naked eye it was huge!

August 2012 is a month with two full moons –  the first full moon is August 1 and the second full moon is August 31.

By one definition, the second moon in a month is called a Blue Moon.

However, there are two more definitions for Blue Moon. It can be the third of four full moons in a single season. Or it can be an actual blue-colored moon.

It’s very rare that you would see a blue-colored moon, although unusual sky conditions – certain-sized particles of dust or smoke – can create them. Blue-colored moons aren’t predictable. So don’t be misled by the photo above. The sorts of moons people commonly call Blue Moons aren’t usually blue.

Every month has a full moon, and, most of the time, the names for full moons coincide with particular months or seasons of the year. By either definition, the name Blue Moon accounts for times when there happen to be more full moons than is usual.

Blue moon as second full moon in a month. In recent decades, many people have begun using the name Blue Moon to describe the second full moon of a calendar month.

The time between one full moon and the next is close to the length of a calendar month. So the only time one month can have two full moons is when the first full moon happens in the first few days of the month. This happens every 2-3 years, so these sorts of Blue Moons come about that often.

When is the next Blue Moon, according to this first definition? August 31, 2012.

The idea of a Blue Moon as the second full moon in a month stemmed from the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, which contained an article called “Once in a Blue Moon” by James Hugh Pruett. Pruett was using a 1937 Maine Farmer’s Almanac, but he simplified the definition. He wrote:

Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon.

Can there be two blue moons in a single calendar year? Yes. It last happened in 1999. There were two full moons in January and two full moons in March and no full moon in February. So both January and March had Blue Moons.

The next year of double blue moons is coming up in 2018.

Blue moon as third full moon of four in a season. The Old Farmer’s Almanac defined a Blue Moon as an extra full moon that occurred in a season. One season – winter, spring, fall, summer – typically has three full moons. If a season has four full moons, then the third full moon may be called a Blue Moon.

The next blue moon by this definition will fall on August 21, 2013.

In recent years, a controversy has raged – mainly among purists – about which Blue Moon definition is better. The idea of a Blue Moon as the third of four in a season may be older than the idea of a Blue Moon as the second full moon in a month. Is it better? Is one definition right and the other wrong? After all, this is folklore. So the folk get to decide, and, in the 21st century, both sorts of full moons have been called Blue.

So enjoy the Blue Moon on August 31st!