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The March Full Moon is often called the Worm Moon due to the early spring appearance of worms reappearing and the robins and other birds that enjoy them.

In 2019, it occurs on March 20 for those of us in the United States, but in any location it will be less noticed for worms and more noticed for two other aspects.

It will reach fullness just ahead of the vernal/spring equinox, which is a nice coincidence. This full moon will also be the third and last last “super moon” of the year.

The rising full moon will look slightly bigger and brighter because it is near its closest approach to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Perhaps you are someone who believes there are no coincidences, and so this triple crossing of celestial events will have greater meaning.

To astronomers, it is just another full moon, though I did read that the full moon on equinox day will allow for some interesting calculations. This is something that occurs every 19 years.

If you measure the shadow cast by a perfectly vertical stick when the Sun us at its highest point (zenith) on equinox day, the angle will be your latitude.

Or you can just look up and wonder at the big, beautiful Moon of ours.

 

On February 19, 2019 at 10:53 am ET, we will see the February Full Moon. Often called the Snow Moon, that name for this Full Moon might not make much sense if you are in a climate where snow is rare or non-existent.

I have written about most of the Full Moon names below (click links for earlier posts). The Wolf Moon may be one English name for this month, but in the U.S. the January Full Moon is the one sometimes called the Wolf Moon.

American Indian tribes have the most variety in naming the Full Moons which were a very important way of marking the passage of time.

Transposing the Cherokee names for our Julian calendar months, our February would be Kagaʔli or Gŭgăli, the Bone Moon or the “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens.” I couldn’t find the exact reason for the “bone” symbolism. Maybe the bare bones of a difficult time of year when it came to food? There might be little food and you might even gnaw on bones and eat bone marrow soup. This was the traditional time for families to mark those who had departed this world with a family meal with places set for the departed. Maybe it is the bones of the departed?

Other tribes called this Full Moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans), the “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans).

In colder climes, Snow, Storm, Winter and Ice Moon were names that were used by Colonists.

Month Colonial America Cherokee Choctaw Celtic Medieval England Neo-Pagan Wiccan Algonquian English
February Trapper’s Moon Bony/Bone Moon Little Famine Moon Moon of Ice Storm Moon Snow Moon Storm Moon Snow Moon Wolf Moon

There is snow and ice in Paradelle at this time, but thankfully there is no famine or gnawing at bones or wolves waiting for me outside.

January 2019 lunar eclipse animation.gif

The eclipse will take place in the constellation of Cancer, just west of the Beehive Cluster.   Animation by Tomruen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Even people who don’t pay attention to the sky or even notice stars, planets and the Moon’s phases will probably take a look at the total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019. The media have been talking about it for a few days already and throwing around terms like “Supermoon” and “Blood Moon.”

Here in the Americas, the eclipse will take place between the evening of Sunday, January 20 and the early morning hours of Monday, January 21. This eclipse will be visible in Paradelle and the New York metro area starting at 9:36 pm local time. The Earth’s shadow will be covering the lunar surface until 2:48 am – so plenty of time to get outside to look before bedtime and even more viewing for insomniacs.

The eclipse will be visible in its entirety from North and South America, as well as portions of western Europe and northwest Africa. Observers at locations in Europe and much of Africa will be able to view part of the eclipse before the Moon sets in the early morning (pre-dawn) hours of January 21.

The eclipse will occur at a time when the Moon is closer to Earth (perigee) than at other times and that is where the “super” comes from. It will appear somewhat larger to most viewers.

As with most lunar eclipses, the moon will appear somewhat reddish during the eclipse because of an optical phenomenon (Rayleigh scattering) of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s basically the same reason that we see sunsets as more reddish than the Sun at earlier parts of the day.

If you somehow miss the event, this is the last total lunar eclipse until May 2021.

Tonight, our Moon will be full and that often obscures some stars or planets in its glare.  But the star charts tell me that Aldebaran, a bright star that forms part of the “face” of Taurus the Bull, and the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus’ “shoulder” should still be visible. I am away from Paradelle and near a dark ocean, so viewing will be different from my home turf.

The November Full Moon is often called the Beaver Moon or Frosty Moon. Back in Paradelle, frosty would be the right word to describe the weather conditions tonight.  I’m not in the Southern Hemisphere, but I am close today, so it feels more like spring than late autumn. In either location, this Full Moon shines in front of Taurus the Bull for this third and final full moon of our Northern Hemisphere autumn (or the Southern Hemisphere spring).

Sassafras albidum growing in Paradelle

We might also use one of the American Indian names for this Full Moon. I believe it is the Choctaw that call this the Sassafras Moon. Sassafras is a tree commonly found throughout the eastern United States that grows up to about 60 feet in height. The tree is also sometimes called cinnamon wood.

I’m sure that the native Americans observed deer and porcupines eating the leaves and twigs. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds, including bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, gray catbirds, pileated and downy woodpeckers. Sassafras root and bark was used in cooking and also herbal remedies. The leaves were used for tea.

Sassafras was also a component is commercial sodas, especially root beer – hence the root name. The key word is was. Sassafras has fallen out of favor because the root bark contains safrole, a volatile oil that the FDA banned as a potential carcinogen in the 1960s. With the safrole removed, it can be legally sold as a topical skin wash or as “aromatic potpourri.”

Whether tonight will be wintry frosty cold or spring like warm, this season we are in runs from the September equinox to the December solstice.

In December, the full moon will occur less than one day after the December solstice, a nice combination, though we will miss having four moons in this season.

Taurus

Taurus as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London in 1825 as part of a treatise on astronomy.

 

 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 is the day of the October Full Moon. It is commonly known as the Hunter Moon and also as the Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. This is the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the Full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox. In most years, including 2018, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October.

Sanguine is a curious word to attach to the Full Moon. Sanguine usually means “blood-red” and is associated with chalk of a reddish-brown colour, so called because it resembles the colour of dried blood. It has been popular for centuries for drawing and is preferred to common white chalk which only works on colored paper.

But “sanguine” (which comes via French from the Italian sanguigna and originally from the Latin sanguis) also means optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation, as in “She is sanguine about prospects for the upcoming elections.”

The Native Americans of the northern and eastern parts of the continent named this Full Moon that came at a time of leaves falling, deer fattened by summer growth and harvests, and concerns for getting game to store for the winter ahead. The appearance of “blood” in the naming comes from the hunting and also from the sometimes reddish appearance of the Moon when it first rises.

Some of the other names associated with this Full Moon are: Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves (sometimes used in November), Moon When the Water Freezes, Blood Moon, Leaf Fall Moon, Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon and the Moon of the Changing Seasons and Moon of the Changing Seasons

The Harvest Moon and Hunter’s Moon are the traditional names for the Full Moons occurring in autumn, usually in September and October, respectively. These two names go back to the early 18th century.

The Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to autumnal equinox. This year it became full in the early morning today, September 25, 2018. The Hunter’s Moon is the Full Moon that follows the next month.

Coincidentally, or apocryphally, some Native Americans also referred to this Full Moon as a hunting moon. Indian tribes of eastern and northern North America had as diet staples corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice, and of which would normally be ready by this Full Moon. The Corn Moon was another Native American name for this Full Moon.

In 2010, the Harvest Moon occurred on the night of the equinox itself for the first time since 1991. Most years, the Harvest Moon is in September though it can be in October.

There are other names for autumn Full Moons: Nut Moon, Mulberry Moon, Gypsy Moon, Singing Moon, Barley Moon, Barley Moon, Elk Call Moon and Fruit Moon.

I know that many people think of the Harvest and Hunter Moons as being more orange-tinged. That fits in nicely with autumn tree colors and Halloween decorations, but really the Moon will not appear any more orange or red this season than it will during the year when there is enough atmosphere/pollution to add some color to our view. Also, the tilt of the Earth after the equinox gives a warmer color of the moon shortly after it rises. But it is an optical illusion. When the Moon is low in the sky, we are looking at it through more atmospheric particles (including pollution) than when the moon is overhead. All of that scatters the blue light but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to your eyes.

And that low hanging Moon, to our eyes, is also perceived as being larger than one that is high in the sky. This is known as a Moon Illusion.

The Full Moons of September, October and November as seen from the northern hemisphere correspond to the full moons of March, April and May as seen from the southern hemisphere.

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