2020 brings four super moons and a blue moon along with a number of celestial events. Even though most events will be visible to the naked eye, this will be an excellent year to make use of that telescope you received for Christmas! Below are some of the highlights of the upcoming year’s events.
On January 10, the full Wolf Moon will peak at 12:23 p.m. This will be the first full moon of the new decade. The full moon of January was known as the Full Wolf Moon to some Native American tribes because it comes at a time that hungry wolves lingered close to human camps looking for whatever scraps they could find, the Full Ice Moon because it comes when waterways are covered by ice and the Full Snow Moon because it coincides with a time of snow on the landscape.
On February 9, the Super Snow Moon will peak at 12:34 a.m. Supermoon is the term that is used when the moon is full at its closest approach to Earth. Under those conditions, the full moon can appear about 7 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than it appears when it is farthest from Earth. Many Native Americans knew the full moon of February as the Snow Moon or the Full Snow Moon, referring to February as the month when the heaviest snows of the year tend to fall.
On March 9, the Super Worm Moon will peak at 11:48 a.m. The full moon of March is known as the Worm Moon, not because of some new discovery about life in the lunar soil, but for a much more down-to-earth reason. The name for the third full moon of the year originated with Native Americans, who knew well that about the time of this full moon, the soil had thawed to the point that worms were coming to the surface when rain fell.
On March 19, the Vernal equinox occurs at 9:50 p.m. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
On April 8, the Super Pink Moon will peak at 1:35 a.m. Native Americans knew the full moon of April as the Pink Full Moon because it rises over a landscape of the pink flowers of wild ground phlox, one of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring. Native Americans also knew April’s full moon as the egg moon, the fish moon and the sprouting grass moon, for other major, recurring natural events at this time of year.
April 22-23 brings the Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The nearly new moon will ensure dark skies for what should be a good show this year. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
On May 7, the Super Flower Moon will peak at 4:45 a.m. Native Americans knew the full moon of May as the Full Flower Moon, based on its coincidence with the blooming of most of spring’s wildflowers. Other Native American names for the full moon in May were the Milk Moon, Mother’s Moon and Corn Planting Moon.
On June 5, the Strawberry Moon will peak at 1:12 p.m. Native Americans through the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic knew the full moon of June as the Full Strawberry Moon because it arrives at the height of the strawberry-picking season. For pre-colonization Native Americans they were wild strawberries, which still grow across Pennsylvania and beyond. To the west, the Choctaw knew the full moon of June the blackberry full moon; the Lakota, the berry full moon; the Potawatomi, the turtle full moon; and the Omaha, “when the buffalo bulls hunt the cows.” In ancient European cultures, the full moon of June was known as the honey moon (honey from bees, not honeymoon), the hot moon, the hay moon, the mean moon, the rose moon, the lovers’ moon and, because there were strawberries in Europe as well, the strawberry moon.
June 22 brings the Summer Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 3:44 p.m. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
On July 4, the Buck Moon will peak at 10:44 p.m. Native Americans knew it as the Full Buck Moon, in reference to the growth phase that white-tailed deer bucks are experiencing in their antlers at this time of year.
On August 3, the Sturgeon Moon will peak at 9:59 a.m. Various Native American peoples knew the full moon of August as the Full Sturgeon Moon because it occurred at the time of the year when the huge fish were available for harvest in large numbers and as the Full Grain Moon because it occurred as the annual harvest of wild grains was beginning.
August 12-13 brings the Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The second quarter moon will block out some of the fainter meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
On September 1, the Corn Moon will peak at 11:23 p.m. Native Americans knew the September full Moon as the Full Corn Moon because it traditionally corresponded with the time of harvesting corn. It was also called the Barley Moon, as this is the time to harvest and thresh ripened barley.
September 22 is the Autumnal Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 7:31 a.m.. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
On October 1, the Harvest Moon will peak at 3:06 p.m. The full moon that happens nearest the autumnal equinox, which is Tuesday, September 22, is called the Harvest Moon. It can occur in September or October. The name of harvest moon arose from farmers, who benefitted from the relatively early rising of the moon around the autumnal equinox and the additional time available for bringing in their crops.
October 21-22, brings the Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The waxing crescent moon will set before midnight leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
On October 31, the Blue Hunter’s Moon will peak at 8:41 a.m. October this year will host the Hunters’ Moon, but that is not always the case. In some years, the name could be applied to the full moon of November. That’s because, unlike the names for many full moons, the Hunters’ Moon is not affixed to just one month. It’s the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Under the modern-day definition, it’s also a Blue Moon, which occurs when there are two full moons in one month.
On November 30, the Beaver Moon will peak at 2:32 a.m. The name Beaver Moon originated with Native American tribes, who tracked the passing seasons with the lunar cycle. Full Beaver Moon referred to the time of year when beaver pelts were prime and the aquatic rodents were beginning to stick close to their lodges, where they had stored food for the winter. Other Native Americans knew the full moon of November as the Frost Moon because of its coincidence with regular occurrences of frost on the landscape.
On December 13-14, we’ll see the Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The morning of the 15th could also be nearly as active this year. The nearly new moon will ensure dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
December 21 brings the Winter Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 4:02 a.m. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
On December 30, the Cold Moon will peak at 1:28 a.m. Native Americans called the upcoming full moon as the Full Cold Moon, an appropriate description for this time of year, when temperatures are falling. Some Native Americans also knew the full moon of December as the Full Long Nights Moon, recognizing the long periods of night relative to daylight at this time of year, around the winter solstice on Monday, December 21.