March 6 showed a beautiful spectacle as a nearly full moon set behind the Providence skyline in Rhode Island. The orange moon can be seen sinking behind the skyscrapers. The moon was set to be at its fullest on 7 March.
The month’s full moon goes by the name of the Worm Moon, in reference to the different creatures emerging to welcome spring. The moon is currently 15.2 days old. It is 398824 km from the Earth. The next new moon is on 21 Mar 2023.
Most people have never heard of a worm moon, but it is in fact the traditional name for the March full moon. This dates back to the medieval Europeans and Native American tribes who gave each month’s moon a different name, often reflecting the changes in nature. The slightly strange sounding worm moon gets its name from the humble earthworm which emerges from its winter slumber in March.
This is a portent of the end of winter and beginning of spring and, in fact, the worm moon is also considered the last full moon of the winter.
Throughout history the coming of spring has had a considerable significance reflecting a period of renewal and regrowth. The March full moon has several other names reflecting this such as the Lenten Moon, which refers to the Christian Lent period. More down to earth names include the crow moon, as the birds become more active after the winter, and the sap or sugar moon.
The worm moon lit up the night sky around the world when it reached its peak illumination early Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, with another storm pushing its way across the U.S. this week, many Americans were unable to observe the beautiful sight. The Farmers’ Almanac says the moon gets that nickname because the ground in the northern latitudes begins to soften during the month, allowing earthworms to appear.
Similar to other folklore behind the naming of each month’s full moon, the nickname might be a bit of a stretch because March is a still chilly month across large parts of North America, which would generally prevent sightings of worms. According to Penn State’s extension office, the optimum temperature for an earthworm is between 50 and 60 degrees, and many do not tolerate freezing weather. Worm or no worm, the worm moon did not disappoint those who took the time to look up into the night sky to see the majestic moon wiggle its way across.
After the full moon, the lunar body will wane into a third-quarter state by 14 March and reach a new moon status on 21 March.
The next full moon will not rise into the sky until Thursday, 6 April, and it will be known as the pink moon. Due to the moon taking around 354 days to complete a full 12 cycles, some years experience an additional full moon – and 2023 is one of those years. Thirteen full moons will grace the skies this year, with the extra sighting scheduled to happen in late August.
Of course, you do not have to wait until the middle of the night to see the Moon. Look for the spectacularly bright Moon as it rises above the horizon on Monday evening. If your weather is poor on Monday night, try again on Tuesday.
See when the Moon will be visible in your area. This March Moon will look especially large to us when it is near the horizon because of the Moon illusion, it looks bigger when near comparative objects than it does when it is high in the sky without any references. The full Moon names used by The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources.
Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not only to the full Moon.
March’s full Moon goes by the name Worm Moon. For many years, we thought this name referred to the earthworms that appear as the soil warms in spring. However, more research revealed another explanation. In the 1760s, Captain Jonathan Carver visited the Naudowessie and other Native American tribes and wrote that the name Worm Moon refers to a different sort of worm—beetle larvae, which begin to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts at this time.
Active since July 17, the Perseid meteor shower can bring as many as 100 shooting stars per hour on its peak night. In 2020, that is Tuesday, August 11 into Wednesday, August 12. That is just the beginning of a great week for stargazing.
As the week wears on it becomes one of the best weeks of the year to see the Milky Way in the run-up to August 19’s New Moon. From August 12 the Moon will be rising after midnight, giving you a few hours of dark skies just as the brightest part of our galaxy is arcing overhead. With two of summer’s celestial treats in the same week, and some great views of Venus and the Moon to boot, a sparkling seven days of stargazing awaits.
Easily the most popular meteor shower of the year in the northern hemisphere, tonight is one of the best nights of the year to see shooting stars.
It is caused by dust and debris left in Earth’s orbital path by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which last entered the Solar System in 1992 and is due back in July 2126. The Perseids can number as many as 100 per hour. A rising Last Quarter Moon about midnight is going to bleach-out some of the brighter meteors, but there should still be plenty for patient eyes to spot.
Be outside before midnight. As well as some early “earthgrazers”—long-lasting shooting stars close to the eastern and western horizons. If you are in a dark place away from light pollution you may also see the Milky Way arcing overhead in the south.
After midnight, to find shooting stars look at any part of the night sky, and keep looking. However, you will need clear skies. If it is cloudy, you are not going to see anything. It is also worth looking for Perseid meteors on Wednesday, August 12 into Thursday, August 13, and even the night after that.
If there is a clear sky this week, get outside and look up.
The center of our galaxy looks spectacular in August, but the Milky Way is at its best when the Moon is down. That is from tonight through August 19’s New Moon. Look generally south, preferably while observing from somewhere away from light pollution and, crucially, somewhere where your view to the southern horizon is not going to have the glow from any town or city.
If you enjoyed seeing Venus dominate as an “Evening Star” for the first half of 2020, now is the best time to appreciate how much it is now dominating as a pre-dawn “Morning Star”. Always the brightest object in the night sky aside from the Moon, Venus today reaches its greatest elongation west. That means it seems, from our point of view one Earth, to be furthest from the Sun in its current morning apparition, so it appears at its highest point in the pre-dawn night sky.
Look above the eastern horizon about three hours before sunrise. At 45.8° west of the Sun, it is the highest in the night sky Venus will get during 2020. If you are up early enough to see Venus, do have a look for bright star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus, which will be a mere 4° from a 34% illuminated Moon.
This morning Venus will still be rising about three hours before the Sun, together with an 18%-lit crescent Moon that will seem closer to it the nearer it gets to sunrise.
Look to the east and, if you are up earlier enough, you can also indulge in some good views of the winter constellations. Most notably you will see the famous cold weather constellation of Orion rising on its side. Its bright stars, ruddy Betelgeuse and true blue Rigel, should both be just about visible.
Between them will the Belt. Above will be the constellation of Taurus and bright red star Aldebaran.