The night sky promises numerous cosmic spectacles as we lean into the year 2020. Not only will 13 full moons make an appearance, but two of them are billed to be “supermoons,” and one, by chance occurring on Halloween, will be a “blue moon.”
Astronomy experts predict that two of 2020’s full moons will occur in October—one at the beginning, and one at the end—meaning that this year will bear witness to one lunar cycle more than the number of months in the calendar. It’s a rare and exciting prospect for avid sky watchers.
As per the Farmers’ Almanac, for anyone interested in enjoying 2020’s night sky and its bumper crop of lunar activity, these are the dates upon which each full moon will fall.
The Full Moons of 2020
January 10: Wolf moon
February 9: Snow moon
March 9: Worm moon (also a supermoon)
April 7: Pink moon (also a supermoon)
May 7: Flower moon
June 5: Strawberry moon
July 5: Buck moon
August 3: Sturgeon moon
September 2: Corn moon
October 1: Harvest moon
October 31: Blue moon
November 30: Beaver moon
December 29: Cold moon
The nicknames bestowed upon the full moons were originally designated by Native Americans tribes in the Northeast in order to help keep track of the seasons.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the wolf moon referred to the howling of the wolves in midwinter and the snow moon to the heaviest snowfall of the year. The worm moon referred to the first reappearance of the earthworm as the ground began to thaw; the pink moon and flower moon each referenced the emergence of spring flowers.
The strawberry moon denoted the strawberry harvest of the same month; the buck and sturgeon moons marked the appearance of these animals in the wild, and therefore the perfect time to hunt and harvest them.
The corn and harvest moons were named to coincide with the peak of the harvest season, during which time farmers could work late into the night under the light of the Moon. The beaver moon and cold moon, last but not least, referred to the onset of deep winter and the perfect time to hunt beavers for their warm fur.
The best place from which to view a full moon is under dark skies and away from city lights. Optimal viewing times for 2020’s full moons will naturally depend upon geographic location.
What Is a Blue Moon?
Contrary to popular belief, a blue moon does not necessarily look blue in color. A blue moon by definition, as per EarthSky, is the second of two full moons to occur within a single calendar month. It’s rare, hence the old adage, “Once in a blue moon,” to denote infrequency.
A Moon that appears blue, sadly, is merely an optical illusion owing to smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere.
AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Lada has commented on how rare it is for a blue moon to fall on Halloween. “Blue moons are uncommon, rising once every two or three years, but a blue moon on Halloween is very rare,” he said. “After the blue moon on October 31, 2020, trick-or-treaters will need to wait until 2039 to see the next blue moon on Halloween.”
What Is a Supermoon?
According to Space.com, supermoons are full moons that coincide with the Moon’s closest distance to Earth within its 27-day orbit. Supermoons can appear up to 14 percent larger and as much as 30 percent brighter than a regular full moon, although the difference is sometimes imperceptible to the naked eye.
Experts are in agreement that 2020 will boast not one but two supermoons occurring just one month apart, in March and April respectively. The second is billed to be the “bigger” of the two.
Casual space fans and fanatics alike have a packed lunar calendar to look forward to in the coming year.