Each year since 2004, Space.com has provided a listing of full moon names that date back to a few centuries ago, when Native Americans occupied the region that’s now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes of long ago kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.
There were some variations in these moon names, but in general, the same ones were used by the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers who arrived in those areas followed their own customs and created some of their own names. Because the lunar (“synodic”) month is roughly 29.5 days long on average, the dates of these full moons shift from year to year. [The Moon: 10 Surprising Lunar Facts]
Here is a listing of all of the full moon names, as well as their dates and times for 2018. Unless otherwise noted, all times are for the Eastern time zone.
The supermoon rises over the treetops in San Jose, California in this image by photographer Frank Langben.
Credit: Frank Langben
Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com
Jan. 1: TheFull Wolf Moon
Amid the bitter cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Native American villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the Moon After Yule. Some tribes called it the Full Snow Moon.
The moon reaches fullness at 9:24 p.m. EST and will arrive at perigee (its closest point to Earth in its orbit) about 4.5 hours earlier, at 5:00 p.m. EST, at a distance of 221,559 miles (356,565 kilometers) from Earth. (A full moon that takes place during perigee is sometimes known as a supermoon.) Because the full moon coincides with perigee, it will appear to be the biggest full moon of 2018. In addition, very high ocean tides can be expected during the two or three days after peak fullness.
Jan. 31: The Full Snow Moon
Usually this title is reserved for a full moon in February, since world tends to be fully coated in snow by then. But this year is an oddity, in that there will be no full moon in February. (This is true for most locations on Earth, but in some places, including eastern Asia and eastern Australia, the moment of peak fullness will occur on the morning of Feb. 1.) During February, the snow and bitter cold makes hunting difficult, so some tribes called this moon the Full Hunger Moon.
This is the second time the moon turns full in a calendar month, so it is also popularly known as a Blue Moon. On average, full moons occur every 29.53 days (the length of the synodic month), or 12.37 times per year. So months containing two full moons occur, on average, every 2.72 years. This year, however, is a striking exception to this rule, as you will soon see.
Jan. 31 will also be the night of atotal lunar eclipse.The Pacific Rim — the lands around the rim of the Pacific Ocean— will have a ringside seat for this event: Totality will last 77 minutes, and at mideclipse, the moon will appear directly overhead (or nearly so) over the open waters of the western Pacific Ocean.
In the western U.S. and western Canada, the eclipse will take place during the predawn hours, but across the rest of North America, the progress of the eclipse will be interrupted by moonset.
February: No full moon.
This occurrence happens once every 19 years. The last time February didn’t have a full moon was in 1999, and the time before that was 1980; the next time there will be no full moon in February will be 2037. (Once again, this is true for most locations on Earth, but in some places, including eastern Asia and eastern Australia, the moment of peak fullness will occur on the morning of Feb. 1.)
The timing of the full moon is related to the Metonic Cycle, which is named for the Greek astronomer Meton, who discovered this phenomenon around 500 B.C. He noted that a given phase of the moon usually falls on the same date at intervals of 19 years. There doesn’t seem to be a name for a month that lacks a full moon, but February is the only month in which this can happen. Recall what we noted above: The lunar (“synodic”) cycle is roughly 29.5 days on average, but even during leap years, February cannot have more than 29 days. So if a full moon takes place on the final day of January, the next full moon will jump over February and occur at the beginning of March. And this will result in a second month with two full moons; the second full moon makes up for the lack of a full moon in February.
March 1: The Full Worm Moon
In March, the ground softens, and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins. The Northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. Fullness occurs at 7:51 p.m. EST(0051 GMT on March 2).
March 31: The Full Sap Moon
Marking the time of tapping maple trees, this is another variation of the Full Worm Moon. In 2018, this is also the Paschal Full Moon, or the first full moon of the spring season. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which indeed will be observed the very next day, on Sunday, April 1. This is also the second Blue Moon of 2018 — once again, depending your location, because the moon reaches peak fullness on April 1 for some locations. Fullness occurs at 8:37 a.m. EDT (0037 GMT on April 1.)
April 29: The Full Pink Moon
One of the earliest-blooming, widespread flowers in North America is the grass pink or wild ground phlox. Other names for this full moon are the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and, to some coastal tribes, the Full Fish Moon, to mark when the shad come upstream to spawn. Fullness occurs at 8:58 p.m. EDT (0058 GMT on April 30).
May 29: The Full Flower Moon
By this time of year, flowers are abundant. The Full Flower Moon was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon. Fullness occurs at 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT).
June 28: The Full Strawberry Moon
Strawberry-picking season peaks this month. Europeans called this the Rose Moon. Fullness occurs at 12:58 a.m. EDT (1658 GMT).
July 27: The Full Buck Moon
This full moon occursin the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, because it’s when thunderstorms are the most frequent in this part of the world. Sometimes, it’s also called the Full Hay Moon.
There will also be a total eclipse of the moon on July 27. However, it will not be visible in North America because it will be happening during the daytime, when the moon is below the horizon. Much of the Eastern Hemisphere — from Europe and Africa, eastward across Asia to Japan, Indonesia and much of Australasia — will be able to watch this rather exceptionally long totality, which will last 103 minutes. Because the moon arrives at apogee (its farthest point from Earth in its orbit) about 14 hours earlier, this will also be the smallestfull moon of 2018; it will appear 12.3 percent smaller than the full moon of Jan. 1. Fullness occurs at 4:20 p.m. EDT (2020 GMT); the eclipse will peak at 3:21 EDT (1921 GMT).
Aug. 26: The Full Sturgeon Moon
This full moon occurswhen this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, like Lake Champlain, are most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon, because when the moon rises, it looks reddish through the sultry summer haze. It is also known as the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.Fullness occurs at 7:56 a.m. EDT (1156 GMT).
Sept. 24: The Full Harvest Moon
Traditionally, this designation goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal (fall) equinox. The Harvest Moon usually comes in September, but (on average) once or twice per decade, it will fall in early October. At the peak of the harvest, farmers can work into the night by the light of this moon. Usually, the moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later each night across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice — the chief Native American staples — are now ready for gathering. Fullness occurs at 10:52 p.m. EDT (0252 GMT on Sept. 25).
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Oct. 24: The Full Hunter’s Moon
With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it’s now time to hunt. Because the fields have been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble and more easily see foxes, as well as other animals, which can be caught for a banquet after the harvest. Fullness occurs at 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT).
Nov. 23: The Full Beaver Moon
At this point of the year, it’s time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. It’s also called the Frosty Moon. Fullness occurs at 12:39 a.m. EST (0539 GMT).
Dec. 22: The Full Cold Moon
It’s not hard to understand where the name of this moon comes from, as December is the month in which the winter cold fastens its grip on this part of the world. On occasion, this moon was also called the Moon Before Yule. Sometimes, this moon is referred to as the Full Long Nights Moon, which is appropriate because the winter solstice (the longest night of the year) occurs in December, and the moon is above the horizon for a long time. In December in the Northern Hemisphere, the full moon makes its highest arc across the sky because it’s diametrically opposite to the low sun. In fact, the moment of the winter solstice comes just over 19 hours before this full moon, at 5:23 p.m. EST on Dec. 21. Peak fullness occurs at12:49 p.m. EST (1749 GMT).
Which of these lunar displays is your favorite skywatching treat?
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon Fios1 News, based in Rye Brook, New York.
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Mars Meteorite Will Return to the Red Planet with NASA Rover
Rohit Bhartia of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission holds a slice of a meteorite scientists have determined came from Mars. This slice will likely be used here on Earth for testing a laser instrument for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover; a separate slice will go to Mars on the rover.
A chunk of rock that was once part of Mars, but landed on Earth as a meteorite, will return to the Red Planet aboard a NASA rover set to launch in 2020.
The meteorite, known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SaU008) was found in Oman in 1999, but geologists determined that it likely originated on Mars, according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Scientists think collisions between Mars and other large bodies in the solar system’s early days sent chunks of the Red Planet into space, where they might wander for eons before falling onto Earth’s surface.
Now, NASA scientists are using the meteorite to calibrate an instrument that will fly on the Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to drop down on the Red Planet’s surface and collect rock samples that could one day be returned to Earth. One of the rover’s main goals is to evaluate the potential habitability of ancient and present-day Mars. [How NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Will Work (Infographic)]
The meteorite is being used to calibrate an instrument called the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals), which will use techniques often used in forensic science to identify chemicals in the Martian rock samples, in features as thin as a human hair.
A close-up of a meteorite that likely came from Mars.
The researchers will study the meteorite on Earth, where they are able to make sure their instruments are producing a correct analysis of the rock, and understand what features of the rock are perceptible to their instruments. When the rover settles onto Mars, researchers can once again use the rock to make sure their instruments are working as they should be, before pointing them at features of the Martian surface.
“We’re studying things on such a fine scale that slight misalignments, caused by changes in temperature or even the rover settling into sand, can require us to correct our aim,” said Luther Beegle, principal investigator for SHERLOC, in the statement. “By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how it will see a piece of the Martian surface.”
There are only about 200 confirmed Martian meteorites that have been found on Earth, according to the statement. The SaU008 meteorite comes from London’s Natural History Museum, which lends out hundreds of meteorites (most of them not from Mars) every year for scientific studies. The SHERLOC team needed a Martian meteorite that was robust enough to endure the journey to Mars without flaking or crumbling. (Launch from Earth and entry into the Martian atmosphere are both very strenuous events for everything on board.) The rock also “needed to possess certain chemical features to test SHERLOC’s sensitivity. These had to be reasonably easy to detect repeatedly for the calibration target to be useful,” according to the statement.
A slice of a Martian meteorite undergoes oxygen cleaning to remove organics. This slice will remain on Earth to be used for testing and calibrating instruments.
Usually, instruments like SHERLOC are calibrated with a variety of materials including rock, metal and glass. And Mars meteorites have been used for instrument calibration in the past. In fact, another instrument aboard the Mars 2020 rover, called SuperCam, will be adding a Mars meteorite to NASA’s calibration target, according to the statement. And while this would be the first Mars meteorite to return to the surface of the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, which orbits the Red Planet, carries a chunk of a Martian meteorite.
SHERLOC will carry other materials from Earth in addition to Su008, including materials that could be used to make a spacesuit for use on Mars. Observations of how the material withstands the radiation, atmosphere and temperature variations on Mars will provide valuable information for possible crewed trips to the Red Planet.
“The SHERLOC instrument is a valuable opportunity to prepare for human spaceflight as well as to perform fundamental scientific investigations of the Martian surface,” Marc Fries, a SHERLOC co-investigator and curator of extraterrestrial materials at Johnson Space Center, said in the statement. “It gives us a convenient way to test material that will keep future astronauts safe when they get to Mars.”
Kepler Space Telescope Discovers 95 More Alien Planets
Planets around other stars are the rule rather than the exception, and there are likely hundreds of billions of exoplanets in the Milky Way alone. NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found more than 2,400 alien worlds, including a new haul of 95 planets announced on Feb. 15, 2018.
The exoplanet discoveries by NASA’s Kepler space telescope keep rolling in.
Astronomers poring through data gathered during Kepler’s current extended mission, known as K2, have spotted 95 more alien planets, a new study reports.
That brings the K2 tally to 292, and the total haul over Kepler’s entire operational life to nearly 2,440 — about two-thirds of all the alien worlds ever discovered. And more than 2,000 additional Kepler candidates await confirmation by follow-up observations or analysis. [7 Greatest Exoplanet Discoveries by NASA’s Kepler (So Far)]
Kepler launched in March 2009, on a mission to help scientists determine just how common rocky, potentially habitable worlds such as Earth are throughout the Milky Way. For four years, the spacecraft stared continuously at about 150,000 stars, looking for tiny dips in their brightness caused by the passage of planets across their faces.
This work was highly productive, as noted above. But in May 2013, the second of Kepler’s four orientation-maintaining “reaction wheels” failed, and the spacecraft lost its superprecise pointing ability, bringing the original mission to a close.
But mission managers figured out a way to stabilize Kepler using sunlight pressure, and the spacecraft soon embarked on its K2 mission, which involves exoplanet hunting on a more limited basis, as well as observing comets and asteroids in our own solar system, supernovas and a range of other objects and phenomena.
For the new study, researchers analyzed K2 data going all the way back to 2014, zeroing in on 275 “candidate” signals.
“We found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft,” study lead author Andrew Mayo, a Ph.D. student at the Technical University of Denmark’s National Space Institute, said in a statement. “But we also detected planets that range from sub-Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger.”
Indeed, 149 of the signals turned out to be caused by bona fide exoplanets, 95 of which are new discoveries. And one of the new ones is a record setter.
“We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by either the Kepler or K2 missions to host a validated planet,” Mayo said. “Planets around bright stars are important because astronomers can learn a lot about them from ground-based observatories.”
The new study was published today (Feb. 15) in The Astronomical Journal.
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