In fact, the same side of the moon always faces the planet, but part of it is in shadow. And, in reality most of the time the “full moon” is never perfectly full. Only when the moon, Earth and the sun are perfectly aligned is the moon 100 percent full, and that alignment produces a lunar eclipse. And sometimes — once in a blue moon — the moon is full twice in a month (or four times in a season, depending on which definition you prefer).
The next full moon will be overnuight on Wednesday and Thursday of June 27 and June 28. That’s because the full moon occurs at 12:53 a.m. EDT (0453 GMT), so depending on which time zone you live in, the full moon will be at its best late Wednesday (June 27) or in the wee hours of Thursday (June 28). To the casual observer, however, the moon will appear full the day before and after it’s peak brightness, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the lunar sight, weather permitting. The June full moon is typically known as the Full Strawberry Moon, or the full Rose Moon and the Lotus Moon.
Full moons in 2018
Many cultures have given distinct names to each recurring full moon. The names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. The Farmer’s Almanac lists several names that are commonly used in the United States. The almanac explains that there were some variations in the moon names, but in general, the same ones were used among the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names.
This is when full moons will occur in 2018, according to NASA:
|Jan. 1||Wolf Moon||9:24 p.m.||02:24|
|Jan. 31||Snow Moon||8:27 a.m.||13:27|
|Mar. 1||Worm Moon||7:51 p.m.||00:51 (3/2)|
|Mar. 31||Sap Moon||8:37 a.m.||13:37|
|Apr. 29||Pink Moon||8:58 p.m.||00:58 (4/30)|
|May 29||Flower Moon||10:20 a.m.||14:20|
|Jun. 28||Strawberry Moon||12:53 a.m.||04:53|
|Jul. 27||Buck Moon||4:21 p.m.||20:21|
|Aug. 26||Sturgeon Moon||7:56 a.m.||11:56|
|Sep. 24||Harvest Moon||10:53 p.m.||02:53 (9/25)|
|Oct. 24||Hunter’s Moon||12:45 p.m.||16:45|
|Nov. 23||Beaver Moon||12:39 a.m.||05:39|
|Dec. 22||Cold Moon||12:49 p.m.||17:49|
Additional full moon names
Other Native American people had different names. In the book “This Day in North American Indian History” (Da Capo Press, 2002), author Phil Konstantin lists more than 50 native peoples and their names for full moons. He also lists them on his website, AmericanIndian.net.
Amateur astronomer Keith Cooley has a brief list of the moon names of other cultures, including Chinese and Celtic, on his website. For example:
Chinese moon names
|January||Holiday Moon||July||Hungry Ghost Moon|
|February||Budding Moon||August||Harvest Moon|
|March||Sleepy Moon||September||Chrysanthemum Moon|
|April||Peony Moon||October||Kindly Moon|
|May||Dragon Moon||November||White Moon|
|June||Lotus Moon||December||Bitter Moon|
Full moon names often correspond to seasonal markers, so a Harvest Moon occurs at the end of the growing season, in September or October, and the Cold Moon occurs in frosty December. At least, that’s how it works in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are switched, the Harvest Moon occurs in March and the Cold Moon is in June. According to Earthsky.org, these are common names for full moons south of the equator.
January: Hay Moon, Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, Mead Moon
February (mid-summer): Grain Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Wyrt Moon, Corn Moon, Dog Moon, Barley Moon
March: Harvest Moon, Corn Moon
April: Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon
May: Hunter’s Moon, Beaver Moon, Frost Moon
June: Oak Moon, Cold Moon, Long Night’s Moon
July: Wolf Moon, Old Moon, Ice Moon
August: Snow Moon, Storm Moon, Hunger Moon, Wolf Moon
September: Worm Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Chaste Moon, Sap Moon
October: Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon, Pink Moon, Waking Moon
November: Corn Moon, Milk Moon, Flower Moon, Hare Moon
December: Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon, Rose Moon
Just a phase
Here’s how a full moon works:
The moon is a sphere that travels once around Earth every 27.3 days. It also takes about 27 days for the moon to rotate on its axis. So, the moon always shows us the same face; there is no single “dark side” of the moon. As the moon revolves around Earth, it is illuminated from varying angles by the sun — what we see when we look at the moon is reflected sunlight. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, which means sometimes it rises during daylight and other times during nighttime hours.
Here’s how the moon’s phases go:
At new moon, the moon is between Earth and the sun, so that the side of the moon facing toward us receives no direct sunlight, and is lit only by dim sunlight reflected from Earth.
A few days later, as the moon moves around Earth, the side we can see gradually becomes more illuminated by direct sunlight. This thin sliver is called the waxing crescent.
A week after new moon, the moon is 90 degrees away from the sun in the sky and is half-illuminated from our point of view, what we call first quarterbecause it is about a quarter of the way around Earth.
A few days later, the area of illumination continues to increase. More than half of the moon’s face appears to be getting sunlight. This phase is called a waxing gibbous moon.
When the moon has moved 180 degrees from its new moon position, the sun, Earth and the moon form a line. The moon’s disk is as close as it can be to being fully illuminated by the sun, so this is called full moon.
Next, the moon moves until more than half of its face appears to be getting sunlight, but the amount is decreasing. This is the waning gibbous phase.
Days later, the moon has moved another quarter of the way around Earth, to the third quarter position. The sun’s light is now shining on the other half of the visible face of the moon.
Next, the moon moves into the waning crescent phase as less than half of its face appears to be getting sunlight, and the amount is decreasing.
Finally, the moon moves back to its new moon starting position. Because the moon’s orbit is not exactly in the same plane as Earth’s orbit around the sun, they rarely are perfectly aligned. Usually the moon passes above or below the sun from our vantage point, but occasionally it passes right in front of the sun, and we get an eclipse of the sun.
Each full moon is calculated to occur at an exact moment, which may or may not be near the time the moon rises where you are. So when a full moon rises, it’s typically doing so some hours before or after the actual time when it’s technically full, but a casual skywatcher won’t notice the difference. In fact, the moon will often look roughly the same on two consecutive nights surrounding the full moon.
UNDERSTANDING MOON PHASES
Let’s start with some interesting facts. It takes the Moon 29.53 days to orbit completely around the Earth in a full lunar cycle. During this time, the Moon will go through each phase. Since the Moon’s orbital journey takes a little less than a full month, when you click on future dates you’ll notice that–depending on the exact number of days in that month–the Full Moon occurs a day or two earlier each month.
It’s the Moon’s journey as it orbits around Earth that creates the predictable dance between light and shadow. And while the changes may seem slow, on any given day the amount of Moon illuminated by the Sun can vary by as much as 10-percent. The illustration above shows the range of illumination for today – June 06, 2018. The illustration is set to your computer’s clock and therefore gives you an accurate reading for your own particular time zone.
The four main Moon phases in order are the New Moon, First Quarter Moon, Full Moon and Last Quarter Moon. These phases occur at very specific times and are measured by both the Moon’s luminosity and how far along the Moon is in its orbit around Earth.
The New Moon Phase occurs when the Moon is completely dark with zero-percent luminosity, while the Full Moon Phase is completely bright with 100-percent luminosity. The First and Last Quarter phases happen when the Moon is exactly half illuminated, with 50-percent luminosity. When people say “today is a Full Moon” it’s important to remember that doesn’t mean the Moon is full all day long, only that the Full Moon Phase occurs on this day. In reality, the exact moment of the Full Moon can be timed to the second. To learn more about the exact time of the Full Moon and the current Full Moon info, check out these Current Full Moon times.
The remaining four Moon phases occur at halfway points between the main phases. Unlike the main phases, these minor phases don’t happen at a specific time or luminosity, rather they describe the Moon’s phase for the entire time period between each main phase. These interim phases are Waxing Crescent Moon, Waxing Gibbous Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon and Waning Crescent Moon. The illustration below shows all eight main and minor Moon phases and where they occur in the lunar cycle.
MOON PHASES IN HISTORY
Imagine a Neanderthal peering out of his cave some dark summer night as the Full Moon rises above the horizon. Nothing on Earth was quite like this strange brilliant object arcing through the night sky. What did he think it was? It’s not hard to imagine how the Moon became the source of many religions, myths and legends throughout the ages.
The Greeks were among the first to take a scientific look at the Moon and her phases. Around 500 BC Greek philosopher and astronomer Pythagoras carefully observed the narrow boundary line—the terminator—between the dark and light hemispheres of the Moon. Based on how the terminator curved across the surface of the Moon, he correctly surmised the Moon must be a sphere.
A few centuries later, around 350 BC, Aristotle took Pythagoras observations even further. By observing the shadow of the Earth across the face of the Moon during a lunar eclipse, Aristotle reckoned that the Earth was also a sphere. He reasoned, incorrectly however, that the Earth was fixed in space and that the Moon, Sun and Stars revolved around it. He also believed the Moon was a translucent sphere that traveled in a perfect orbit around Earth.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that our understanding of the Solar System evolved. In the early 1500s Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed a model of the Solar System where Earth and the other planets orbited around the Sun, and the Moon orbited around Earth. One hundred years later Italian Astronomer Galileo used one of the first telescopes to observe the terminator and deduced from the uneven shadows of the Waning Crescent Phase that the Moon’s surface was pocked with craters and valleys and ridged with mountains.
These observations were revolutionary. Copernicus and Galileo upended the long-held Aristotelian view of the heavens as a place where Earth was the center of the Universe and the Moon was a smooth, polished orb. Telescopes and new minds helped scientist understand that the Earth and planets orbited around the Sun and the Moon was a battered and cratered satellite held in our own orbit.