• The Next Full Moon is the Worm/Crow/Crust/Sap/Sugar/Lenten Moon

    Hey everyone! Shawn here, with Gordon Johnston’s post on the next full moon and everything else happening until then for you to keep your eyes on. I’m in the middle of a busy week, so our next post will likely be the liveblog of the next Cosmos episode on Sudnay evening. Until then… check out the skies, according to Gordon’s breakdown of the highlights.

    The next full Moon will be on Sunday, March 16, 2014, appearing “opposite” the Sun at 1:08 pm EDT. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from late Friday night/early Saturday morning through early Tuesday morning. Suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

    As the last full Moon of winter, this Moon is known as the Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, or Lenten Moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the native tribes of what is now the northern and eastern U.S. named this the Worm Moon after the earthworm casts that appear as the ground thaws. The more northern tribes knew this as the Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. Other northern names are the Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night, or the Sap (or Sugar) Moon as this is the time for tapping maple trees. Europeans called this the Lenten Moon, as the next Moon, the first full Moon in Spring, occurs just before Easter.

    In the Hebrew calendar the months change with the new Moon and the full Moons fall in the middle of the month. A solar year is about 11 days longer than twelve lunar months, so to keep holidays tied to their seasons, the Hebrew calendar occasionally repeats the month of Adar. This full Moon is the middle of the second Adar, called Adar Bet (Bet being the second letter of the Hebrew Alphabet), Adar Sheni (Second Adar) or Adar II. In leap years when there are two months of Adar, the 14th day of the first Adar is called Little Purim or Purim Katan, and the 14th day of the second Adar is the main Purim holiday. This year the main Purim holiday is from sunset on Saturday, March 15, to sunset on Sunday, March 16, 2014.

    In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon, a few days after the New Moon. The full Moon on March 16th is in the middle of the Islamic month of Jumada al-awwal. Unlike the Hebrew calendar, the Islamic calendar has no leap days or leap months to stay in sync with the seasons, and Islamic holidays occur approximately 11 days earlier each solar year.

    As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next…

    This is the time of year when (for the northern hemisphere, at least) the evening sky is full of bright stars, our nearby neighbors in the local arm of our galaxy. Over the next few months these bright stars will appear to shift farther to the west until they are lost in the glow of dusk. Moving or “wandering” through these bright stars is the bright planet Jupiter (the word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer,” as the stars are fixed in their constellations while the planets move). Jupiter was at its brightest and closest to the Earth back on January 5, 2014. Now Jupiter is gradually shifting more into the evening sky and decreasing in brightness as the Earth rushes away from it on our way around the far side of the Sun.

    As the Earth passes between the Sun and Mars, Mars will be opposite the Sun and at its brightest for the year on April 8, 2014. This means that Mars is rising around sunset and setting around sunrise. For the Washington, DC area, on the day of the full Moon on March 16, 2014, Mars will rise at 9:32 pm EDT. By the day of the next full Moon on April 15th, Mars will be rising at 6:41 pm EDT, but will not be visible until evening twilight ends at about 8:47 pm EDT. Mars will appear near the bright star Spica, about 5 degrees apart at their closest on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Spica is a hot, bluish-white star, which should contrast nicely with the reddish hue of Mars.

    For the Washington, DC area, on the day of this full Moon (March 16, 2014), Saturn will rise at 11:46 pm EDT. By the day of the next full Moon on April 15th, Saturn will be rising at 9:37 pm EDT. Saturn continues to brighten and will be at its brightest in May.

    Venus is now appearing before dawn as the Morning Star. Venus was at its brightest for this morning appearance in February, but even as it dims it is still appearing to shift farther from the Sun and higher in the morning sky, reaching its greatest elongation on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

    On Thursday evening, March 13, 2014, the waxing, gibbous, nearly full Moon will appear near the bright star Regulus. For the Washington, DC area, as evening twilight ends at about 7:43 pm EDT, the Moon and Regulus will appear about 9 degrees apart. The Moon will be at its highest in the sky at 10:53 pm EDT, and the Moon and Regulus will appear to drift closer to each other until the Moon sets at about 5:30 am the next morning (and Regulus sets about 1/2 hour later). By the time evening twilight ends the next evening (Friday evening, March 14, 2014, at 7:44 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the Moon and Regulus will appear about 8 degrees apart and will continue to separate as the night progresses.

    Even though they are too small for us to see without a telescope, I like to mention Near Earth Objects that we know about that will pass near the Earth (within about 15 lunar distances). On Thursday, March 13, 2014, at 9:39 pm EDT (01:39 UTC on March 14, 2014), Near Earth Object (2014 EP12), between 22 and 49 meters (72 to 161 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 2.9 lunar distances, traveling at 9.95 kilometers per second (22.3 thousand miles per hour).

    On Friday, March 14, 2014, at 4:48 am EDT (08:48 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 EJ24), between 51 and 110 meters (167 to 361 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 10.2 lunar distances, traveling at 22.37 kilometers per second (50.0 thousand miles per hour).

    On Friday, March 14, 2014, Mercury reaches its greatest morning elongation. This opportunity to view Mercury is not a very good one for the Northern Hemisphere (but is good from the Southern Hemisphere). As morning twilight begins (at about 6:24 am EDT for the Washington, DC area), Mercury will appear only about a degree above the horizon in the east-southeast, so unless you have a very clear view to a distant horizon, you are not likely to be able to see it.

    On Friday, March 14, 2014, at 3:51 pm EDT (19:51 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 DU22), between 37 and 82 meters (121 to 269 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 7.9 lunar distances, traveling at 9.41 kilometers per second (21.0 thousand miles per hour).

    On Saturday, March 15, 2014, at 1:00 am EDT (05:00 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 EM), between 24 and 53 meters (79 to 174 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 4.3 lunar distances, traveling at 11.68 kilometers per second (26.1 thousand miles per hour).

    As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Sunday, March 16, 2014.

    On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, at 3:10 am EDT (07:10 UTC), Near Earth Object (2013 WT44), between 320 meters and 710 meters (1,050 to 2,330 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 12.7 lunar distances, traveling at 11.13 kilometers per second (24.9 thousand miles per hour).

    On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the waning gibbous Moon will appear near the bright star Spica and the planet Mars. Early in the morning, when the Moon is at its highest in the sky (about 2:21 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), Spica will appear about 8 degrees to the left and a little below the Moon. They will appear to shift closer until they are lost in the glow of dawn (for the Washington, DC are, morning twilight begins around 6:17 am EDT). By the time the Moon rises Tuesday night (around 9:30 pm EDT for Washington, DC), the Moon, Mars, and Spica form a triangle, with Spica on the right, Mars on the left, and the Moon below. The Moon will appear to drift away from Mars and Spica as the evening progresses. The Moon will be at its highest in the sky Wednesday morning (at 3:08 am EDT for the Washington, DC area), but will still appear as a triangle even as the sky begins to lighten with dawn (morning twilight begins around 6:16 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    In the early morning of Thursday, March 20, 2014, if you happen to live in a narrow band (about 45 miles wide) cutting across parts of Canada and New York, you will be able to see the bright star Regulus appear to vanish for as long as 12 seconds as its light is blocked by the asteroid 163 Erigone. For more information on this rare event see.

    Thursday, March 20, 2014, is the start of Spring with the vernal equinox at 12:57 pm EDT.

    Around midnight on Thursday evening, March 20, 2014, and into Friday morning, the waning gibbous Moon and the planet Saturn appear quite close to each other. They will appear about 2 degrees apart when they rise (at around 11:35 pm Thursday evening for the Washington, DC area), will appear about 3 degrees apart by the time the Moon appears highest in the sky (around 4:51 am EDT for the Washington, DC area), and about 4 degrees apart by the time morning twilight begins (around 6:12 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    Saturday morning, March 22, 2014, the waning gibbous Moon will appear about 7 degrees from the bright star Antares. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise around 12:37 am EDT and Antares will rise about 34 minutes later at 1:11 am. The Moon will be at its highest in the sky at around 5:45 am EDT, and morning twilight will begin around 6:11 am EDT.

    Also on Saturday, March 22, 2014, Venus will be at its greatest morning or western elongation, its greatest angular separation from the Sun for this cycle. Look for Venus in the east-southeast before sunrise.

    On Sunday, March 23, 2014, the waning Moon will appear half-full when in reaches its last quarter at 9:46 pm EDT.

    On Thursday morning, March 27, the planet Venus and the waning crescent Moon will appear about 3 degrees apart. Try looking to the east-southeast just as morning twilight begins (around 6:03 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    On Wednesday, March 30, 2014, at 7:39 am EDT (11:39 UTC), Near Earth Object (2012 EA), between 11 and 25 meters (36 to 82 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 13.9 lunar distances, traveling at 6.0 kilometers per second (13.4 thousand miles per hour).

    The New Moon will be on Wednesday, March 30, 2014, at 2:45 pm EDT.

    On Thursday evening, April 3, 2014, the bright star Aldebaran will appear about 5 degrees to the upper left of the waxing crescent Moon. Try looking to the west just as evening twilight ends (around 8:32 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area). They will appear to shift closer until moonset (at about 11:48 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area). By the next evening, Friday, April 4, 2014, the Moon will appear to have shifted to about 8 degrees to the upper left of Aldebaran.

    On Sunday evening, April 6, 2014, the bright planet Jupiter will appear about 6 degrees above the nearly half-full Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end around 8:36 pm and the Moon will set around 2:12 am Monday morning (all in EDT).

    On Monday, April 7, 2014, the waxing Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 4:31 am EDT.

    On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at 5:03 pm EDT, Mars will be at opposition, or opposite the Sun as the Earth passes between Mars and the Sun (effectively a “full Mars”). In the days around this time Mars will be at its closest and brightest for the year.

    On Thursday evening, April 10, 2014, the bright star Regulus will appear about 6 degrees above the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end around 8:40 pm, the Moon will be at its highest for the night at around 10:01 pm, and the Moon will set around 4:30 am on Friday morning (all in EDT).

    On Sunday, April 13, 2014, the waxing, nearly full Moon will appear near the bright planet Mars. For the Washington, DC area, when evening twilight ends at 8:43 pm EDT, Mars will appear in the east-southeast about 9 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. The Moon will appear at its highest for the night at about 15 minutes after midnight, with Mars about 8 degrees to the left. Morning twilight will begin Monday morning at about 5:33 am EDT, with the Moon close to setting a little south of west and Mars appearing about 6 degrees above the Moon.

    The next evening, Monday, April 14, 2014, as evening twilight ends (at about 8:45 pm for the Washington, DC area), the bright star Spica will appear within about 3 degrees below the full Moon, with Mars about 7 degrees above the Moon. The Moon will appear to shift closer to Spica during the evening and will be at its closest, about 1.5 degrees, just about the time the Moon is at its highest in the sky (at about 1:02 am EDT the next morning for the Washington DC area), while appearing to shift farther from Mars.

    The full Moon after next will be on Tuesday morning, April 15, 2014, at 3:42 am EDT. I will write more about this in my next Moon Note, but with a total eclipse of the Moon and with Spica and Mars nearby, this should be quite a show.