A Huge Full Hunter’s Moon Will Light Up The Sky This Weekend

Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images
Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images

This weekend’s full moon will likely draw your eye even more than a regular one does.

Newsweek reports that what’s known as the full hunter’s moon—the first full moon after the harvest moon—will rise right around sunset, making it seem both much larger and more orange than usual. Though you’ll likely be able to spot it from Saturday, October 12 through the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 15, the best time to look up is Sunday night, October 13, when the moon reaches peak fullness.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hunter’s moon may seem so huge because of a simple trick our eyes play on us called the “moon illusion.” Usually, when the moon is high and far from the horizon, it’s the main thing we see in the sky. Because the sky itself is so unfathomably vast, the moon looks pretty small. The hunter’s moon, however, appears lower in the sky, giving us a chance to view it next to things like trees and buildings. Since the moon is so much larger than those objects, our brains may process it with a better sense of scale.

The reason the hunter’s moon often glows orange is also related to its lower position. The moon is actually closer to us when it’s higher in the sky, so the light it reflects has to travel a shorter distance to reach our eyes, leaving the shorter wavelengths of blue light intact. When the moon is low, the air scatters those short blue wavelengths before they get to us, and only the longer, reddish wavelengths make it through.

Though we don’t know for sure why it’s called a hunter’s moon, The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that it may have once indicated the beginning of prime hunting season, when hunters could easily spot animals in fields that harvesters had just cleared after the previous month’s harvest moon.

And, after the hunter’s moon has come and gone, be sure to catch the full beaver moon in November.

[h/t Newsweek]

The Wolf Moon, 2020’s First Full Moon, Coincides With a Lunar Eclipse

kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images
kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images

The first full moon—known as the wolf moon, since wolves supposedly howl more during the winter when food is scarce—is going to be a little extra special this year.

What is the wolf moon eclipse?

According to Newsweek, 2020’s wolf moon coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. Because the penumbra is a wider, lighter shadow than the umbra, which is in Earth’s direct wake, this isn’t the most striking type of eclipse. During its peak, the moon will simply appear a little less bright. To see the characteristic reddish-orange “blood moon” of a total lunar eclipse, when the moon does pass into the Earth’s umbra, we’ll have to wait until May 26, 2021.

Where to See the Wolf Moon Eclipse

Since this Friday’s eclipse happens during the day in North and South America, most people in the U.S. won’t be able to catch the show. If you live in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Australia, however, you can see the moon in all its glorious dimness when the sun sets on Friday, January 10. Forbes reports that the eclipse will begin at 12:07 p.m. EST (5:07 p.m. UTC) and reach maximum eclipse at 2:10 p.m. EST (7:10 p.m. UTC).

If you do live in North or South America, it’s still worth a skyward glance when night falls on January 10—even a regular full moon is pretty spectacular. You’ll get a chance to see a penumbral lunar eclipse for yourself on July 5.

[h/t Newsweek]

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Is Coming in 2020—Here’s How to See It

Kurguzova/iStock via Getty Images
Kurguzova/iStock via Getty Images

If your New Year’s resolution is to spend more time appreciating the wonders of space, you won’t have to wait very long to put your plans into action: 2020’s first meteor shower is coming between January 3 and January 4.

According to Inverse, the Quadrantid meteor shower consists of fireball meteors, which shine brighter and bolder than other meteors because they’re made from larger particles of matter. And since the moon won’t be visible during the Quadrantids's peak, the already-bright meteors won’t have to compete with moonlight.

They will, however, have to compete with your habit of being soundly asleep in the middle of the night. The International Meteor Organization predicts that the shower’s peak will occur around 3 a.m. EST on January 4, and only last for about four hours [PDF]. It will take place in the northern part of the sky, so your chances of seeing the shower are better if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

The meteor shower was named the Quadrantids because its radiant point—or the location in the sky from which the meteors seem to originate—was in a now-obsolete constellation called the Quadrans Muralis, identified in 1795 by French astronomer Jérôme Lalande and then omitted from the International Astronomical Union’s list of constellations in 1922.

Luckily, there are a couple other recognizable landmarks, so to speak, to help you figure out where to direct your gaze come next Friday night. According to EarthSky, the Quadrantids’s updated radiant point is near Arcturus, the brightest star of the Bootes constellation, and it’s also not far from the Big Dipper.

In 2003, astronomer Peter Jenniskens suggested that the Quadrantids’s parent body was the asteroid 2003 EH1, rather than an icy comet like many other meteor showers. Though we don’t know if that’s true, we are pretty sure about one thing: The chance to ring in the new year with a fireball sighting is worth losing a little sleep over.

[h/t Inverse]

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