Full Moon Names for 2008 |
By Joe Rao
SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist
posted: 18 January 2008
06:23 am ET
Full moon names were bestowed by the Native Americans of what is
now the northern and eastern United States. A few hundred years
ago, those tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full
moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.
There were some variations in the moon names, but in general
the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England on
west to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created
some of their own names. Since the lunar ("synodic") month is roughly
29.5 days in length on average, the dates of the full moon shift from year to
Here is a listing of all the full moon names, as well as the
dates and times for 2008. Unless otherwise noted, all times are for the Eastern
Jan. 22, 8:35 a.m. EST — Full Wolf Moon. Amid the zero cold and deep
snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. It
was also known as the Old Moon or the moon after Yule. In some tribes this was
the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next moon.
Feb. 20, 10:30 p.m. EST — Full Snow Moon. Usually the heaviest snows
fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some tribes
this was the Full Hunger Moon. This is also the night of a Total
Lunar Eclipse. North and South Americans will have a ringside seat for this
event and will take place during convenient evening hours. Observers in western
Europe and western Africa will see this eclipse from start to finish during the
morning hours of February 21.
Mar. 21, 2:40 p.m. EDT — Full Worm Moon. In this month the ground
softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins.
The more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of
crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover
becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap
Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. This is
also the Paschal Full Moon; the first full moon of the spring season. The first
Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which indeed will be
observed two days later on Sunday, March 23. This will, in fact, be the
earliest Easter since 1913.
Apr. 20, 6:25 a.m. EDT — Full Pink Moon. The grass pink or wild ground
phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names were
the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and — among coastal tribes — the
Full Fish Moon, when the shad came upstream to spawn.
May 19, 9:11 p.m. EDT — Full Flower Moon. Flowers are abundant
everywhere. It was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.
Since the moon arrives at apogee less than 12 hours later, this will also be
the smallest full moon of 2008. In terms of apparent size, it will appear 12.3
percent smaller than the full moon of Dec. 12.
Jun. 18, 1:30 p.m. EDT — Full Strawberry Moon. Known to every
Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.
Jul. 18, 3:59 a.m. EDT — Full Buck Moon, when the new antlers of buck
deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often
called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes
also called the Full Hay Moon.
Aug. 16, 5:16 p.m. EDT — Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of
the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most
readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon
rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain
Moon. There will be a Partial Lunar Eclipse that will be visible
from Europe, Africa and the western two-thirds of Asia with this full moon. At
its maximum 81 percent of the moon’s diameter will become immersed in the
Earth’s dark umbral shadow.
Sep. 15, 5:13 a.m. EDT — Full Harvest Moon. Traditionally, this
designation goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal (fall)
Equinox. The Harvest Moon usually comes in September, but (on average) about
every three or four years it will fall in early October. At the peak of the
harvest, farmers can work into the night by the light of this moon. Usually the
full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few
nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time
each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20
minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and
wild rice — the chief Indian staples — are now ready for gathering.
Oct. 14, 4:02 p.m. EDT — Full Hunters’ Moon. With the leaves falling
and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped,
hunters can ride over the stubble, and can more easily see the fox, along with
other animals, which have come out to glean and can be caught for a
thanksgiving banquet after the harvest.
Nov. 13, 1:17 a.m. EST — Full Beaver Moon. Time to set beaver traps
before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another
interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon come from the fact that
the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Also called the
Dec. 12, 11:37 a.m. EST — Full Cold Moon; among
some tribes, the Full Long Nights Moon. In this month the winter cold fastens
its grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest. Also sometimes
called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate
name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the moon is above the
horizon a long time. The midwinter full moon takes a high trajectory across the
sky because it is opposite to the low Sun. The moon will also be at perigee
later this day, at 5:00 p.m. EST, at a distance of 221,560 mi. (356,566 km.)
from Earth. Very high ocean
tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full moon.
Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden
Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other
publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12
Westchester, New York.