This year, space fans may have seen July’s full moon shine darker than usual, as the third lunar eclipse of 2020 occurred.
When? July 5
August: Sturgeon Moon
Tribes in North America usually caught Sturgeon around this time, but this is also when grain and corn are collected, sometimes called Grain Moon.
This full moon appears in the same month as the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on 12 and 13 August.
This year, a black moon (the third new moon in a season of four new moons) also occurred on August 19th. However, we could not see the lunar event, as new moons are invisible to the naked eye.
When? August 3
September and October: Full Moon and Harvest Moon
It was during September that most crops were harvested before autumn, and this full moon would give light to farmers so that they could continue to work longer at night. As a result, it is usually known as the Harvest Moon, and some tribes also call it the full moon, barley moon, or fruit moon.
The Harvest Moon, however, is the name given to the first full moon that finds the closest to the Autumn equinox. While the harvest moon usually falls in September, the astronomical seasons cause it to fall in October about every three years.
In 2020, the autumnal equinox falls on September 22, with the nearest full moon falling in October. Therefore, September’s full moon was known as the Full Moon, while the first of two full moons in October was the Harvest Moon.
When? September 2 and October 1
October: Hunter’s Moon
While people planned ahead for the cold months ahead, October’s full moon indicated the ideal time for game hunting, which became fatter by eating falling grains. This full moon is also known as the Travel Moon and the dying grass moon.
In 2020, the Hunter’s Moon was also a blue moon, as it was the second of two full moons that occurred in October.
When? October 31
November: Beaver Moon
Beavers usually start building their winter ponds now, leading to this full moon moniker. It is also known as the Frost Moon, as winter frost only began to take its toll at this time.
When? November 30
Total lunar eclipses
A total lunar eclipse, also known as a ‘blood moon’, occurs when the moon moves in the earth’s shadow. At a distance from the Moon, this shadow looks like the bull’s eye in the center of a dartboard.
The umbrella shadow slowly creeps over the moon’s disk until it is completely engulfed. You would think that the moon would disappear from sight at this point, but this is usually not the case. The Earth’s atmosphere works like a lens that refracts or bends the sun’s red light to fill in the otherwise dark umbra. This led to the usual bright white color of the moon turning into a deep blood orange.
Space lovers will remember that the last total lunar eclipse will hit our skies on January 21, 2019. In total, the celestial spectacle – which was also a full moon and a supermoon – lasted five hours, 11 minutes and 33 seconds, with its maximum totality peaking at 05:12.
While the next total lunar eclipse will only take place in the UK on 16 May 2022, three pre-eclipsed lunar eclipses took place on 10 January, 5 June and 5 July this year.
This type of eclipse occurs when the moon moves through the outer part of the earth’s shadow, also known as the penumbra, which slightly obscures the lunar surface. Therefore, it can be easily mistaken for a normal full moon, and unlike a total lunar eclipse, it can be difficult to spot or observe.
Once in a blue moon
Does this familiar phrase have anything to do with the moon? Well, yes, do it. We use it to refer to something that happens very rarely and a blue moon is a rare occurrence.
A monthly blue moon is the name given to a second full moon that occurs in a single calendar month, and it usually occurs only once every two to three years. In 2020, the Hunter’s Moon on October 31 will also be a blue moon because it is the second full moon to occur in October.
A seasonal blue moon describes the third of four full moons that occur in an astronomical season. In 2019, May’s Flower Moon was a seasonal blue moon.
There are many other moons too – how much do you know?
Full moon: We all know what it is. They come around every month and illuminate the sky at night.
New moon: Sometimes known as the invisible phase, as it is usually not visible in the sky. This is when the sun and moon are in line, with the sun and the earth on either side of the moon. As a result, the side of the Moon facing the Earth is left in darkness.
Black moon: Most experts agree that it refers to the second new moon in a calendar month, while some use the term to describe the third new moon in a season of four new moons. The last black moon took place on 19 August 2020.
Blood Moon: Also known as a total lunar eclipse. This is when the shadow of the earth casts a reddish glow on the moon, the result of a rare combination of an eclipse with the nearest full moon of the year. There was one in the UK in January 2019, with the next one to be visible on 16 May 2022 across South America, North America and parts of Europe and Africa. Space supporters in the UK will not be able to see every phase of this eclipse, but must be able to see it in its entirety when the moon appears with a red-orange glow.
What is a supermoon?
Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon that is so close that you can almost touch it? Well, you’ve probably seen a supermoon.
The impressive face happens when a full moon is at the point in its orbit that brings it closest to the earth. To our earthlings, it looks up to 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger.