• The Next Full Moon is the Corn Moon

    Below is Gordon Johnston’s quad-weekly updates on the happenings in the night skies. He send this out a couple days ago, but I was on travel and didn’t have the chance to post it until now… that’s why the stuff at the top of the post is (slightly) outdated.


    The next full Moon is on Friday morning, August 31, 2012 (at 9:58 am EDT). The Moon will appear full for 3 days around this time, from Wednesday evening through Saturday morning (and will still appear full or nearly full when it rises Saturday evening).

    This is the day of the Ghost Festival. In the Chinese calendar, the current lunar cycle (from new Moon to new Moon) is the seventh month in the lunar calendar. The seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month and the fifteenth day is called Ghost Day, on which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out to visit the living. The Ghost Festival is always close to the full Moon in the seventh month, this year on the day of the full Moon.

    This is the second full Moon of the month, so by one definition this is a Blue Moon. However, an older and more traditional definition of a Blue Moon is the third, extra full Moon in a season that has four full Moons. The Summer of 2013 is the next season with four full Moons and by this definition the next Blue Moon is a year from now, on August 20, 2013.

    Europeans called this full Moon the Fruit Moon (as a number of fruits ripen as the end of Summer approaches) or the Barley Moon (for the harvesting and threshing of the barley). For the Native American tribes of what is now the Northeastern United States, this was the Corn Moon, the time for gathering their main staple crops of corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice.

    As usual, suitably celebratory celestial attire (Hawaiian shirts, bow ties, anything else you can think of) is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

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

    As August ends and September begins, for a brief period after sunset, Saturn, Mars, and the bright star Spica appear low on west-southwest horizon, setting by 10 pm or so (at least for the mid-latitudes such as the Washington, DC area). In the morning sky Mercury is vanishing in the glow of the rising Sun, while Venus and Jupiter remain clearly visible.

    On Saturday, September 8, 2012, in the morning, the waning third quarter Moon and Jupiter will appear about a degree apart, high in the sky.

    On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, in the morning, Venus will appear about 4 degrees to the left from the the waning crescent Moon. Even after sunrise, you may be able to use the Moon to guide your eye to find Venus, especially with binoculars (but be careful not to accidentally look at the Sun with binoculars, even for a moment!).

    Saturday, September 15, 2012, is the day of the new Moon, the end of the Ghost Month.

    On Wednesday, September 19, 2012, just as the sky darkens after sunset (say around 8 pm EDT for the Washington DC area), Mars will appear near the southwestern horizon about 3 degrees to the right of the waxing crescent Moon.

    Saturday, September 22, 2012, at 10:49 am EDT, is the Autumnal Equinox, the astronomical start of Fall. It is also the day of the waxing, first quarter Moon.

    On Saturday, September 29, 2012, in the early morning, Uranus is at opposition, at its brightest and closest for the year. Saturday evening is the day of the full Moon, so with a telescope or really good, large binoculars you may be able to use the Moon to guide your viewing to this planet, which is too faint to see with the naked eye. Uranus will appear about 4 degrees from the Moon.

    The full Moon after next is on Saturday, September 29, 2012