Friday, February 24th 2017

Full Moon

The next Full Moon occurs on Sunday, March 12, 2017

Full Moon

Full Moon

Photo © Ali Taylor at SXC

Upcoming Dates
Year Date
2017 Sunday, March 12
2017 Tuesday, April 11
2017 Wednesday, May 10
2017 Friday, June 09
2017 Sunday, July 09
2017 Monday, August 07

Full moons are often associated with folklore and superstition. Many people believe that strange things happen when one begins rising in the night sky, such as higher occurrences of births, hospital visits and crime. While this has yet to be proven true, full moons have certainly been important in calendars and date keeping throughout written history. Some of the oldest calendars are based on the phases of the moon, including one found in Scotland from around 10,000 years ago1. And as they became instrumental in keeping time through calendars, they also became affiliated with holidays and celebrations.

What is a Full Moon?

A full moon occurs when the Moon is positioned on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. The Moon orbits the Earth completely every 27.3 days, but because the Earth is also orbiting the Sun, it takes extra time to return to the same phase from our perspective. This length of time is known as a synodic month, and is approximately 29.5 days long. A full moon can be very helpful in navigation, not only to provide a bountiful amount of light, but because like the Sun a rising full moon is always found in the east.

Full Moons in Holidays

Holidays that celebrate full moons, or have their dates marked by them, are generally found in societies that are based on lunar or lunisolar calendars. The most prominent full moon celebration is in China, and is known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival. This festival always occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, and is celebrated by spending time with family or lovers, eating Moon Cake and watching the beautiful Moon rise above the horizon. Another observance found in Buddhism is called Poya, and occurs every time there is a full moon. There are 12 Poyas in a lunar calendar year, and each has its own unique name. For example, the Poya in January is called Duruthu Poya, while the Poya in February is called Navam Poya. Each Poya may be observed in different ways, but generally involve various types of reflection and worship. In Sri Lanka, Poyas are official holidays as Buddism is the largest religion in the nation.

Full moons are also often associated with Halloween. Some folklore states that werewolves, vampires or witches will appear when a full moon occurs, particularly around Halloween. Halloween imagery often depicts a wolf howling or witch flying in front of a full moon.

Activities

1. Full moons look extraordinarily large when they first rise above the horizon, but not nearly as big when they are high in the sky. Do they get smaller as the night progresses? Here’s how you can find out: Take a regular sheet of paper and roll it into a tube. Then look at the moon through the tube and adjust the tube such that the end of the tube perfectly fits around the Moon. Tape the tube so that it holds at that position. Later in the night, when the Moon is high, look at it again through the tube. The results may astound you!

2. Look at the moon as it sits just above the horizon, and briefly think about its color. It may have a reddish or orange tint to it. Why? When we look at the moon just above the horizon, there is more dust and other contaminants that affect the light our eyes receive from the moon than when we look at it high in the sky.

References

1. http://phys.org/news/2013-07-scotland-lunar-calendar-stone-age-rethink.html (accessed January 20, 2014).

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