No, the ‘Full Red’ moon is not Mars. Despite the focus of many at NASA on Mars (including from yours truly), the moon is still up there and still orbiting the Earth. So check out this lunar cycle report from bike commuter and lunar expert Gordon Johnston. (Any weird formatting is my fault as I’m posting this from my smartphone.)
The next full Moon is just before midnight on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 (at11:28 pm EDT). The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from Tuesday evening through Friday morning. The Native Americans fishing tribes of what is now the northern and eastern United States are given credit for the naming of this the Sturgeon Moon,since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies ofwater, were more readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew this as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through the sultry hazes of summer. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon. Perhaps you should consider reading some Theodore Sturgeon in honor of this full Moon as well… As to other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next: At the start of August Mercury is hidden by the Sun (having passed its closest to the Sun for this cycle on Saturday, July 28, 2012), but begins rising in the morning, reaching its greatest separation from the Sun by the middle of August. Jupiter and Venus are also visible in the east before sunrise while Mars and Saturn are visible in the west-southwest after sunset. August should be a good month to watch the sky for meteors. The Perseid meteors begin showing up in early August, peak around Sunday, August 12, to Monday, August 13, 2012, then diminish through the rest of August. At the peak, if you are in a dark place far from city lights with a clear view of the sky and no haze or clouds in the way, you should be able to see about ameteor per minute on average. The best time to watch is after midnight but before the crescent Moon rises (for the Washington, DC area, the moonrise isat 1:38 am on the 12th and 2:29 am on the 13th). However, the Perseids tend to be bright enough that you should still be able to see some after moonrise. The Perseids are tiny specks of dust from the Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle that collide with the Earth at 61 kilometers (38 miles) per second, so fast that the air cannot get out of the way fast enough to avoid getting compressed and heated to white hot temperatures. All these specks of dust are moving in the same general orbit as the comet and hit the Earth from the same general direction, so the meteors appear to radiate outfrom the constellation Perseus (hence the name Perseids).In late July and early August, low in the eastern sky, the bright star Aldebaran will appear about 5 degrees to the lower right of Jupiter. Venus will appear further apart to the lower left of Jupiter. Monday, July 30,2012, is when Jupiter appears closest to Aldebaran. The best time to lookis before the sky starts to brighten (around 5 amfor the Washington, DCarea). As mentioned before, the full Moon is on Wednesday, August 1, 2012. In early August, in the west-southwest after sunset, the bright star Spica, Saturn, and Mars will be putting on a show. Spica will appear about 5 degrees below and to the left of Saturn (they will appear at their closest, 4.5 degrees apart, on Tuesday, August 7, 2012). Over the next week, Mars will appear to shift towards Saturn and Spica, passing between and forming a line with them on the evening of Monday, August 13, 2012. Thursday, August 9, 2012, is the last or third quarter Moon. Before dawn in the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2012, Jupiter will appear about 4 degrees to the lower left of the crescent Moon. On the morning of Monday, August 13, 2012, Venus will appear to the lower left of the Moon. Later in the day the Moon will actually pass in front of Venus. If you are in central or western North America, you should be able to use binoculars to see this event (even though it is daylight), but be careful not to look anywhere near the Sun with any sort of magnifying device. In the morning on Wednesday, August 15, 2012, Venus will be at its greatest elongation or greatest separation from the Sun for this cycle. Venus and the Sun will appear about 46 degrees apart. The next day, in the morning on Thursday, August 16, 2012, it is Mercury’s turn. Mercury will be at its greatest elongation or greatest separation from the Sun for this cycle. Mercury and the Sun will appear about 19 degrees apart. To see Mercury you will need a clear view of the east-northeast horizon just as the sky is beginning to brighten before dawn. Friday, August 17, 2012, is the new Moon. The exact date varies, but shortly after the new Moon (e.g., once the crescent Moon becomes visible) Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, the feast ending the month of fasting. In the evening on Tuesday, August 21, 2012, the waxing crescent Moon will join Mars, Saturn, and Spica. Mars will have moved past Spica and Saturn to form a triangle, with the Moon slightly below and to the left of Spica, alllow in the west-southwest. The first quarter Moon is on Friday, August 24, 2012. On Friday evening the bright reddish colored star Antares will appear to the lower left of the Moon. The name Antares comes from its reddish color, similar to the planet Mars, which the Greeks called Ares. The full Moon after next is on Friday, August 31, 2012.