• The Next Full Moon is the Flower Moon

    Apologies for missing last month’s post. Gordon Johnston wrote up the astronomical forecast, as always, but I didn’t get around to re-posting it here. Hopefully this month’s will make up for it…


    The next full Moon will be on Thursday afternoon, April 25, 2013, passing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 3:57 pm EDT.  The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from Wednesday morning (possibly even Tuesday evening) through Saturday morning.  As usual, suitably celebratory celestial costuming could be considered in support of our sated Selene.


    As the second full Moon of the Spring season, this is the Flower Moon, as in most areas flowers are abundant this time of year.  Other names include the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.  This Moon usually falls in May, so it is early this year.


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


    Sunday and Monday, April 21 and 22, 2013 is the expected peak of the annual Lyrids meteor shower (so called because they appear to radiate out from the constellation Lyra).  This will not be a good year to for viewing the Lyrids, as the light of the nearly-full Moon will make seeing all but the brightest meteors difficult.  If you want to see the Lyrids, the best time to look would be early in the morning on Monday, April 22, 2013, after the Moon sets and before the sky starts to brighten with dawn (between about 4:10 am and 5:20 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).  You would need to be away from city lights with a clear view of the sky, and with no haze or clouds.


    On Wednesday, April 24, 2013, the nearly full Moon will appear within about a degree or so of the bright star Spica.  For the Washington DC area, they would have appeared at their closest at about 7 pm EDT, just as the Moon rises, but with the Sun still in the sky the sky will be to bright to see Spica.  As the sky darkens (from sunset at 7:54 pm to the end of civil twilight at 8:22 pm EDT) Spica will become visible, but Spica and the Moon will appear to be drifting apart.  For the Washington, DC area, by the time the Moon reaches its highest point for the night (at 12:30 am EDT on Thursday, April 25, 2013), the Moon will have shifted so that Spica appears about 5 degrees from the Moon.


    As mentioned above, the next full Moon is on Thursday afternoon, April 25, 2013.  This will be a partial eclipse of the Moon, but it will not be visible from North America.


    On Thursday evening and into Friday morning, April 25 to 26, 2013, the nearly full Moon and the bright planet Saturn will appear within about 4 or 5 degrees of each other.


    On Thursday evening and into Friday morning, April 27 to 28, 2013, the waning gibbous Moon will appear about 8 degrees from the bright reddish colored star Antares.


    On Friday, April 28, 2013, Saturn will be at opposition, which means opposite the Sun as seen from the Earth.  This is equivalent to a “full Saturn” and will be when Saturn is brightest and closest to the Earth for the year.


    Thursday, May 2, 2013, is the last quarter Moon, when the Moon will appear half-full in the morning sky.


    Saturday night to Sunday morning, May 4 to 5, 2013, is the peak of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. This meteor shower is caused by dust from Halley’s comet when we pass through the comet’s orbit every year.  This meteor shower is best seen from the southern hemisphere (because the dust is approaching from the south), but if you want to try to see the Eta Aquarids the best time to look is on Sunday morning May 5, 2013 from about 4 am until the sky starts to lighten with dawn.  You will need to find a dark place far from city lights with a clear view of the sky, and no haze or clouds.  The shower runs from about April 19th to May 28th, so it is a fairly broad shower, but the peak is on the morning of the 5th.


    Thursday, May 9, 2013, is the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and is not visible from Earth.  The Moon will actually block the Sun as seen from Earth, if you happen to be in the right part of Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, or on a ship in the Pacific.  The Moon will be far enough from the Earth that it will not completely block the Sun, so if you are in the right place the bright Sun will appear to form a ring (or annulus) around the dark Moon, making this an annular eclipse.  From North America not even a partial eclipse if visible.


    Saturday, May 18, 2013, is the first quarter Moon, when the Moon appears half full in the evening sky.


    On Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning , May 21 to 22, 2013, the waxing gibbous Moon will appear within four degrees of the bright star Spica.


    The next evening, Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, May 22 to 23, 2013, the nearly full Moon will appear near the nearly full Saturn.


    The full Moon after next is on Saturday, May 25, 2013.  The reddish star that will appear about 8 degrees from the full Moon is Antares.