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!
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
Look up the night of Jan 20 into morning of Jan 21. You won’t need a telescope or special glasses. It’s a “Supermoon,” “Wolfmoon,” “Bloodmoon. Ooh, it’s disappearing.
About midnight, CT, the full moon will have fully moved in its orbit between the earth and the sun. so it won’t be reflecting the sun’s rays. The total eclipse will last a long time – an hour.
The Adler Planetarium site lists Central Times for when it begins and happens as partial eclipse starting at 9:34 pm, and total eclipse from 10:41 to 11:43 pm, Jan. 20. Then watch as the moon emerges from behind the earth Jan.l 21.
In Universal Time the eclipse will last almost 3½ hours from the beginning of the partial phase at 3:34 UT until it ends at 6:51 UT. Totality lasts 63 minutes, from 4:41 to 5:44 UT.
So why “Supermoon?” “The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle,” said Adler Director of Public Observing Michelle Nichols. “Sometimes it is closer to earth so it looks larger,” Nichols said. She noted that the closest it will come near the eclipse will be during the day of Jan. 21 at 1:59 p.m. She calls the appearance of the rising moon seeming to loom large, “an optical illusion.”
She suggested viewers use the thumb test. “Put an arm straight out and cover the moon with your thumb. Then, do it again later when the moon is over head. It will be the same size.”
“Bloodmoon” is a term describing the moon’s color during total eclipse. “Sometimes it looks brick red, sometimes grayish. The sunlight is reflecting at the edge of the earth. The earth has blotted out the blue of the sun so sometimes it could be reddish sometimes grayish. It also depends on how dusty the earth’s atmosphere is,” Nichols said.
“Wolfmoon” is a term for the first full moon of the year, acquired over the years similar to Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon. It also has other names such as Ice Moon according to Time and Date
which explains that people often named the full moons according to the seasons and the phenomena they associated with its time of year.
Where to Watch
View outside your abode. See it happening inside on a live stream at Time and Date Live which will be streaming the event on its site.
But to appreciate and enjoy the lunar eclipse with astronomers go over to the Adler for “Lunapalooza.” The outside observing part is free. Inside events, adults $12, children $8 (members free) include seeing the new Adler show “Imagine the Moon” which charts how people considered the moon over the centuries. Lunar eclipse