October 2020 begins and ends with special full moons.
The month begins with a full moon Oct. 1-2. In the Northern Hemisphere it is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the closest full moon to the fall equinox which in 2020 was Sept. 22.
That makes it special because even though moonrise is later each day by 50 minutes the full moon near the fall equinox takes less time to rise so there is more moonlight. For farmers that means more light to harvest crops.
Because the seasons are just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon comes in March or April.
But unlike most months, October 2020 has another full moon. That phrase once in a blue moon means that rare occasion when the moon phases complete twice in the same month.
Because October began with a full moon, the phases complete their cycle with a full moon on Oct. 31, 2020. Right. Halloween. Spooky!
Check the weather predictions in your area for Aug. 11-13. That is when the Perseids are supposed to be peaking with bright meteors shooting across the sky at 50 to 100 an hour.
Best time say the experts, is in the northern hemisphere right before dawn, so also check the sunrise times for your area.
Because these meteors are bright, plentiful and have long tails, the largish waning crescent moon might not be much of a hindrance the night of Aug. 11. By Aug 13 the moon will be thinner though there may be fewer meteors.to spot.
So where do they come from?
The Perseids are debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. They are called Perseids because they look like they emanate (their radiant) from the Perseus constellation as the Earth moves through their trail each summer.
The comet’s name comes from Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862.
Sky watchers have two meteor showers to spot the rest of July and much of August: the Delta Aquariids and the Perseids.
Although the Aquariids, a sparse shower of about 20 meteors per hour, are best seen in the Southern Hemisphere they can be spotted as far north as the mid-northern latitudes. Just watch for them after the moon sets around midnight this weekend until just before dawn, July 27-28. However, the moon, which is in its first quarter isn’t much of a factor.
The comet of origin is suspected to be 96P Machholz. Named for where they seem to come from, the radiant is the Aquarius Constellation in the southern sky.
Because the Aquariids continue through late August, you may see them when you watch for the Perseids that peak Aug. 11-13.
You will know which is which because the Perseids, a strong shower of up to 150 meteors per hour during its peak, come from the northern part of the sky where you find the Perseus Constellation. The comet of origin is 109P Swift-Tuttle.
If watching for the Aquariids this weekend, you may also see the Perseids because they are very bright and already started about July 17. However, they don’t peak until about the second week of August when the moon will also be bright.
The weekend of July 17 will be a great time to check out the night sky.
The NEOWISE Comet (C/2020 F3) can be seen zooming across northern United States and Canada after sunset. Watch for it now because it won’t be back for thousands of years. Tip: Look for the Big Dipper. Start with binoculars to first see the comet below the Big Dipper but then try unaided.
But also try to spot the planets. The schedule of when they first appear this weekend goes from late night July 17 through early July 18. Being able to see all seven planets over two days is a rare occurrence.
Often called the Flower Moon or the Planting Moon, the early May moon appearing May 7 will be the last of the full supermoons in 2020. Best time to see it is at 5:45 a.m. CT. It will also seem at its full super size the next day.
There was one in March and one in April. Now comes the third and last one. The reason full is used before the term supermoon is because the orbits of some new moons also go close to Earth making them super in size if you saw them.
But the moon in its new phase doesn’t reflect the sun. So to enjoy a moon that appears super-sized because it is close to Earth you have to watch for it in its full phase when it fully reflects the sun.
Supermoon is a name given to our moon when it is within 90 percent of its closet approach to earth. The closeness does make it seem super sized but that is an illusion.
Instead of merely staying inside late tonight or tomorrow night (actually very early Tuesday or Wednesday morning), find a spot outside your abode to catch the Lyrid meteor shower while it peaks April 21-22, 2020.
Meteor enthusiasts have been watching the Lyrids for centuries. Among the oldest recorded meteor shower, it was supposedly first noticed 2,900 years ago.
The timing this year is perfect because the moon won’t be interfering as it is in its new phase April 20 and will be just a thin crescent April 22.
Most sky watching sites suggest dressing warm and lying down in or on a sleeping bag with feet pointing east, then looking up and letting the eyes adjust to the night sky. This year, experts predict between 10 to 20 meteors per hour during the peak.
What may help is that the Lyrids are bright and have a long tail of dust. But they are also fast at 30 miles per second.
The shower is called the Lyrids because the meteors appear to radiate from the Lyra the Harp constellation near the bright Vega star.
What you are seeing is debris that has crossed the earth’s orbit from the Thatcher comet. The comet, itself, take about 415 years to orbit around the Sun so earthling won’t be able to see that comet again until 2276.
The largest looking full moon, a really supermoon of 2020 will be brightening your neighborhood tonight if the sky isn’t cloudy where you are.
The reason we say that largest looking is that its size is an optical illusion. The moon looks larger because its orbit brings it closer.
For April 7, he moon’s closest orbital point to earth, called the perigee, has coincided with the moon’s full phase and will be closest at 10:35 p.m. EDT.
Super and even just full moons have been given lots of nicknames. The April one is often called the “Pink” moon. The Pink moon will look almost as good the evenings of April 6 and April 8, if the sky is clear.
If weather isn’t cooperating mark the calendar for May 7 for the “Flower” super full moon. Just think of the overused but usually true adage of April rain bringing May flowers.
For a fun look at the night sky and the moon visit Space/fullmoon/calendar because it has an interesting video from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The next closest moons will be in the new moon phase which doesn’t reflect the sun. They come the middle of September, October and November. However, the full moon Oct. 1 is the Harvest Moon and Oct. 31 has the Blue Moon, as in the saying “once in a blue moon” because there will be two full moons in one month
Yes if you saw a mostly full moon Saturday night it did appear larger and brighter than usual. It was your first glimpse of the first 2020 supermoon which is at its fullest on Monday, March 9 at 1:48 p.m. EDT. However, it’s fine to look for it Sunday night.
The reason it looks larger is because its elliptical course brings it closer to earth on March 9.. The close point is called the perigee as opposed to the far point which is the apogee.
At 222.081 miles from earth it looms large but the next full moon an April 8 will be even closer at 221,851 miles.
This March supermoon has several nicknames including the “Worm Moon” because worms are said to begin to come out of the soil about this time.