You might not have heard of the Sturgeon Moon in August or the Buck Moon in July but chances are you’ve heard of the Harvest Moon that is appearing overhead now in September.
It’s more than just a popular song.
Harvest Moon is the name some cultures, native tribes and farmers have given to the full moon that usually appears mid to late September because it rises when the sun goes down thus giving famers more light to get the crops in.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September autumnal equinox. In 2021 that comes Sept. 22 when day and night are about equal in length. (It comes in March in the Southern Hemisphere)
You probably noticed that large golden orb already appearing above the horizon. It will be fullest and brightest Sept. 20, about 6:45 p.m. CDT. but will also appear full the following day.
If listening to TV weather reports, you are likely to hear meteorologists referencing the date as the beginning of autumnal fall but adding that meteorological fall began about 3 weeks before the September equinox on Sept. 1.
Autumnal fall ends at the December Solstice, when astronomical winter begins. but for meteorologists the fall season ends Nov. 30.
Put August 11 on your calendar to watch the night sky. The best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be entertaining night sky watchers with at least 40 fireballs an hour when they peak next week. However, they have been known to rack up as many as 100 meteors per hour.
As debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs annually when earth’s orbit takes it near the comet’s path from the end of July to mid-August. The meteors are already zooming across the sky but in 2021 the peak is Aug. 11-13.
If you like company or have trouble seeing them, tune into NASA which has invited everyone to watch with them. Watch time is Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. CDT on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
If weather is a problem, there is likely to be a second chance Aug. 12-13. The livestream is hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
A crescent moon will be setting early so moonlight shouldn’t be a factor. Watch between midnight and dawn away from city lights. Some folks stretch out on blankets but if the ground is dewy damp pull out a lawn chair.
Don’t worry if you don’t see any meteors right away. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the night sky. The meteor shower radiant appears to be above Perseus.
The Supermoon looming large at the horizon June 24, 2021 is the “Strawberry Moon.” It is also called the “Roses Moon.” Either name implies a reddish or rosé colored moon. It may take on that hue as it rises similar to a sunrise or sunset because of the time of year.
At the Summer Solstice the sun is high in the sky and the moon is low. Thus the moon will be seen through enough more of the atmosphere to appear to have a tinge of color.
Full moons are given names of crops, animal behavior and farming lore appropriate for their time of year. But not as well known is the connection to honey.
According to some NASA findings on European full moon names, the June full moon is also called the “Mead Moon” and “Honey Moon.. Also noted is that the term “honeymoon” goes back to the 1500s in Europe.
Expect to see the moon appearing full Wednesday through Friday. It’s listed by some sky publications as a “Supermoon” because its orbit takes it close (perigee) to earth.
For good info on perigee, Supermoons and new moons that are full visit Time and Date.
Folks in northern Canada can catch the best part of June 10’s eclipse event as the new moon’s orbit moves it across the sky to block the sun.
In the US, the best areas to see it are north and east such as in New York City where the eclipse magnitude will be 80 percent and last for more than an hour after sunrise. .
Chicago area residents will be able to see an eclipse, it just will be a partial one and not last long. Thus, the best way to catch it is after getting protective glasses or using an alternative viewing method, to look to the horizon when the sun appears.
That means watching beginning at 5:15 a.m. through 5:39 a.m. Compared to the north east including NYC’s high magnitude, Chicago’s magnitude will be 35 percent at 5:18 a.m.
Maybe you think of winter, spring, summer and fall as your year’s seasons but astronomers also have at least one other seasonal time frame: Eclipse Season. It is the short period when a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse happen near each other.
Coming up is a short lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021. Don’t blink because you may miss it.
It is called short because totality lasts just a bit more than 14 minutes. According to astronomers, that is the 10th shortest totality for a lunar eclipse between the years 1600 and 2599.
To better understand what will be happening, know that during the lunar eclipse a full moon will be moving through the Earth’s umbral shadow and be fully in that shadow for slightly more than 14 minutes. But the entire movement through the shadow will be about three hours.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that the part of the United States where you are watching the eclipse will matter as to totality with west of the Mississippi River better than east.
But as TV commercials say Wait. The eclipse is just part of May’s lunar special event. Because the May full moon’s orbit takes it closer to Earth than the year’s other full moons, it will be 2021’s best and brightest Supermoon. During the eclipse, it will appear as a blood moon.
The lunar event is followed by an annular solar eclipse on June 10. That eclipse’s partial phases will make it the 5th longest worldwide for an annular solar eclipse that happens in the same season as a total lunar eclipse.
But forget about blinking. Proper glasses or other safety precautions are needed to protect your eyesight.
EarthSky has an excellent summary of Eclipse Season. Also see Time and Date for information on both the lunar and solar eclipses this year and in the future.
The Eta Aquarids, the first half of Halley’s Comet’s two rounds of meteor showers, peak May 4-6, 2021. The two meteor showers are debris from Comet Halley as Earth passes through the comet’s path around the Sun.
Seen in both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere arguably offers a better view now when its radiant, the Aquarius constellation, is overhead and Northern is better for its second round, the Orionids, in October. But both meteor showers are popular with sky watchers.
After acclimating your sight to the night, look in the southern sky for Eta Aquarii, the constellation’s brightest star. Depending on the weather, you may be treated to more than 30 meteorites per hour.
The moon, now in its waning crescent phase should not be a factor, particularly if watching for the meteorites early on May 6 before dawn.
Forget about turning off the light that may be keeping you up on April 26-27. It’s streaming in through the windows from upstairs, outside. However, the source will have seemed larger earlier in the evening.
What’s shining through the windows if the sky is clear, is not merely a full moon. The orb outside is a Supermoon. It really isn’t larger. It just plays tricks on the eyes and perspective as it appears huge when first appearing at the horizon and in early evening.
The April full moon, also known as the “Pink Moon” is a Supermoon because it will be closer to Earth than most other full moons. The exception being the full moon in May 26, called the “Flower Moon” that will be even closer.
Some astronomy sites only designate the April and May full moons as Supermoons. Other sites include June 24’s which is also close. Still other sites include the March full moon which was fairly close.
For times to watch or photograph the moon check. EarthSky. The site also has the April, May June, 2021 Supermoons’ distances from the moon to Earth with April 27 at 222,212 miles (357,615 km), May 26 at 222,089 miles (357,462km) and June 24 at 224,662 miles (361,558 km).
If interested in how this all happens, you should know about the lunar perigee. It’s when the moon’s orbit brings it to its closest point to Earth. The opposite is apogee.
Of course, the third factor is where the earth is in relation to the moon and the sun to be a full moon. So, the April Supermoon actually happens about 12 hours short of it lunar perigee and May’s Supermoon falls about nine hours after perigee. The reason some sites refer just to April and May’s full moons as Supermoons is because less than 24 hours occur between the perigee and full moon phase.
Next, don’t be surprised if bothered with sinus trouble and have a full-moon sized headache. Because the pull of the full moon, particuclarly the Supermoon, does influence the tides, lore has it that their affect on humans and animals can also be felt.
Assuming the weather cooperates, early risers should have no trouble spotting a fireball zooming across the sky shortly before dawn in the next few days. The Lyrids meteor shower is happening now.
They seem to be shooting out (radiant) from the Lyric constellation just northwest of its bright Vega star. They are debris from the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), first noted more than 2,500 years ago.
The best days to look for them are April 21-22 when the Lyrids are expected to peak at about 18 meteors an hour. Pre dawn is the best time to watch because the moon is waxing gibbous so its illumination won’t be a factor after it sets.
For the time to watch in your zone visit Time and Date. For more information on where to look visit Space which has a map to help find the radiant. For more basic meteor and Lyrid information visit NASA Lyrids.
If the light of the moon was keeping you up last night it’s because the first full moon of spring is March 28 but looks full March 27 and March 29.
And because this spring (Northern Hemisphere) full moon is closer to earth than the ones in January and February it appears brighter and is considered by some sky watchers as a “Supermoon.”
Actually, its perigee (closest part of its orbit) is March 30 so it still will continue to appear very bright and mostly full.
Don’t worry if your area is cloudy. The full moons in April, May and June will be even closer and will look like Supermoons.
Called the Worm Moon, Crow Moon or Sap Moon by some native American tribes, this full moon also sets Easter, which, in 2021, is April 4. See Tonight | EarthSky
Fun Fact:Do you know what syzygy means? It’s when three bodies, such as the Sun, Earth, and the Moon, are in alignment. See Time and Date for the term and alignment.
Time and Date also does an excellent job of explaining how long the moon really is fully illuminated and why due to the earth’s tilt it may not appear at total illumination, noting that the degree of illumination somewhat blends what appears to be a Full Moon and the last stage of a Waxing Gibbous Moon or the beginning of a Waning Gibbous Moon.
On NASA’s site a sidebar tells that the term “supermoon” was “coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth.’
The site also connects the first spring moon’s names from native Americans and different religions. It notes that this weekend’s Full moon is also called the Pesach moon on the Jewish calendar, Paschal moon for Western Christianity and Medin in SRI Lanka.
For more word definitions and moon phases visit Space.
According to several astronomy sources it was northeastern native Americans who dubbed February’s full moon the Snow Moon.
Given the amount of snow that covered much of the United States in February, the moon is well named. It’s also called the Storm Moon and Hunger Moon.
That orb will be lighting up the landscape Thursday, Friday and Saturday but best time to view will be Friday night from when it appears above the horizon in the east as the sun sets to midnight when it is overhead.
Some studies mentioned by EarthSky have been done on the relationship of full moons to sleeplessness from the light point of view. Hopefully, scientists will also look at the tidal pull of full moons on sinuses.