January’s Full Moon, 2016

cropped-cropped-fullmoon_cs2_unsharpmastappimcontrast_100_6065.jpgThe 2nd full moon following the Winter Solstice and the first for the new year occurs this weekend, January 23rd & 24th. Occurring at 1:46 UTC, this particular full moon is known as the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon or Hunger Moon. The actual “full moon” occurred yesterday for observers along North America’s Eastern Seaboard at 8:46 PM, EST. If you live there, in all likelihood, you were inundated with snow and probably didn’t get the opportunity to observe the moon.

january-24-2016-full-moon-worldwide-map
Worldwide map of this year’s Wolf Moon illustrating the day/night terminator at the instant of “Full Moon”

The full moon rises as the sun sets and occurs when there is exactly 180 degrees between the sun and moon for an observer located on the surface of the earth. This is the only phase of the moon during which a lunar eclipse can occur. Unlike a solar eclipse, where the moon perfectly covers the sun at New Moon, the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse. Although this alignment occurs at the exact instant for all locations, the time and, in some cases, the date will be different for different observers. Those various local times are decremented in one-hour intervals with each time zone preceding east from Greenwich, England. Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) is the local time in Greenwich and is the universal standard. For our friends in the UK, the full moon occurred at exactly 1:46 AM (1:46 UTC); for those observing from North America’s Eastern Seaboard, 5 time zones to the east of Greenwich, it was 8:46 PM, EST (Eastern Standard Time).

This full moon is known as the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon or Hunger moon and its name is derived, as they all are, according to cultural and seasonal significance. In the northern hemisphere, in North America, Indian lore plays a significant role in the moon’s name and this full moon is most commonly referred to as the Wolf moon. In other cultures, it is known as the Snow Moon for obvious reasons as January is Winter in the Northern Hemisphere or the Hunger moon, signifying the paucity of food during the lean winter months. Other examples include the Harvest Moon, the full moon immediately following the Autumnal Equinox or October’s Hunter’s moon.

Since the moon lies opposite the sun at full moon, it mirrors the sun’s place against the backdrop of stars for six months hence. That’s why this month’s full moon, like the sun during the summer, follows a high path near the ecliptic as it crosses the sky as seen from the northern hemisphere and a low path as seen from the southern hemisphere.

Screenshot 2016-01-24 19.13.38This month’s full moon rises at sunset, as all full moons do, north of due east and climbs highest in the sky at around midnight and sets north of due west at sunrise. At its rising, it is accompanied by winter’s jewels, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, slightly to the north and west, Procyon and the shimmering stars of Orion, both slightly south and to the west along with brilliant Sirius, the brightest appearing star in the sky.

A calendar of full moon dates, their names, significance and meaning can be found in the “Old Farmers Almanac” and in Fred Espenak’s Ephemeris.

Imagination is more important than knowledge 585px-Albert_Einstein_signature_1934(invert)
An index of all articles in this blog can be found here.

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