Astronomers should dust-off their binoculars and train their eyes on the skies tonight, for the first Full Moon of the decade is imminent. Express.co.uk reveals everything you need to know about the Full Wolf Moon eclipse before the phenomena’s impending arrival.
When is the January Full Moon?
The Full Moon for January was called the Full Wolf Moon because wolves were more often heard at this time
Astronomy fans looking up to the heavens tonight will be welcomed by a Full Wolf Moon.
Europe gets front row seats for the Wolf Moon Eclipse, while the event can also be seen from Africa, Asia and Australia.
The Moon will hit full illumination at 7.21pm GMT (2.21pm EST) tonight.
Wolf Moon 2020: The Moon will hit full illumination at 7.21pm GMT
Experts have calculated tonight’s Full Moon eclipse will last approximately four hours.
North and South America will miss this lunar spectacle as the Full Moon takes place in the early afternoon in those parts of the world.
However, only a few hours later January’s Full Wolf Moon will arrive in the skies.
The beautiful Full Moon will be visible both at moonrise and moonset.
Why do Full Moons happen?
Full Moons take place when the Earth’s natural satellite is positioned on the opposite side of our planet and directly across from the Sun.
The face of our celestial orb is as a result fully illuminated.
Tonight’s Full Moon will be all the more special because it coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the partial shadow of our planet.
Wolf Moon 2020: The Moon will hit full illumination at 7.21pm GMT (2.21pm EST) tonight
A Full Moon combining with a penumbral lunar eclipse means onlookers will see the Moon but the orbiting object may look a little dimmer than usual.
Of all the types of lunar eclipses, penumbral ones are unfortunately the least photogenic.
Six eclipses have been forecast for 2020 including two solar eclipses and four lunar ones.
And all of this year’s lunar eclipses will be penumbral ones.
This is because the Moon is currently travelling through our planet’s outer faint penumbral shadow and not the planet’s dark umbral shadow.
Wolf Moon 2020: Europe gets front row seats for the Wolf Moon Eclipse
How did the Full Moon come to be called the Wolf Moon?
The name Full Wolf Moon is adopted by Native American tribes.
These ancient people noticed how hungry wolves howled at the same time of year as this Full Moon phenomenon.
The lunar event is also called the Moon After Yule and the Old Moon.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac said: “The Full Moon for January was called the Full Wolf Moon because wolves were more often heard at this time.
“It was traditionally thought that they howled due to hunger, but there is no evidence for this.
“However, wolves do tend to howl more often during winter months and generally howl to define territory, locate pack members, and gather for hunting.”
Why are there 13 Full Moons this year?
Lunar months are actually exactly 29.53 days long, while most months are longer than 29 days.
Consequently, the date of the Full Moon drifts to be sooner in successive months.
There inevitably comes a time when there is both a Full Moon on the first and last day of the month.
Wolf Moon 2020: tonight’s Full Moon eclipse will last approximately four hours
This is something that in 2020 occurs in October.
The second Full Moon of that month, on October 31, will be the Blue Moon.
So this year will actually have 13 Full Moons between January and December.
The Farmers’ Almanac said: “In our lexicon, we describe an unusual event as happening ‘Once in a Blue Moon’.
“This expression was first noted back in 1821 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare”.
Wolf Moon 2020: Astronomers should dust-off their binoculars and train their eyes on the skies tonight
What are the 13 Full Moons called this year?
Because we have 13 full moons this year, there will be two Full Moons in October 2020.
In modern folklore, the second Full Moon in a calendar month is commonly called a Blue Moon.
January 10 – Full Wolf Moon
February 9 – Full Snow Moon
March 9 – Full Worm Moon
April 8 – Full Pink Moon
May 7 – Full Flower Moon
June 5 – Full Strawberry Moon
July 5 – Full Buck Moon
August 3 – Full Sturgeon Moon
September 2 – Full Corn Moon
October 2 – Full Hunter’s Moon
October 31 – Blue Moon
November 30 – Full Beaver’s Moon
December 30 – Full Cold Moon