The Buck Moon tonight, hitting its peak while still below the horizon in the United States and Canada at 6:57 p.m. EDT, is not a missed opportunity for lunar lovers. It is staying full all night, and for those who need more of the show, they can look skyward after Tuesday, July 19, 2016, and continue to see it in its glory.
The Buck Moon or the Full Buck Moon, is so-called because it appears at the time of year when bucks begin to grow their antlers. While officially at its peak, the moon tonight nonetheless appears full about a day before and after the actual full moon phase, a noteworthy fact for lunar-watching aficionados who want to extend the viewing time.
According to CNBC, the Buck Moon does not become visible to North Americans until sometime around 8 p.m. on the East Coast, when the moon rises above the horizon. Though Earth’s constant companion will technically be in its waning gibbous phase by the time it is visible to North Americans tonight, it will retain its full appearance.
The Buck Moon tonight can be traced back to what Native American tribes and early European settlers called events that affected their lives. Naming helped keep track of seasons and occurrences that shaped how people survived.
The Weather Channel asserts that the July full moon, aside from going by the Buck Moon moniker, is also known as the Thunder Moon, because of thunderstorms likely to happen somewhere in the country tonight. A third name is the Hay Moon that denotes farmers trying to get their hay inside the barn in advance of the expected storms. August’s full moon is coincidentally called the Sturgeon Moon, after the kind of fish best caught in the Great Lakes next month.
According to Space.com, full moons rise once a month, except for a Blue Moon, which appears twice within a month. The Blue Moon is the third of four full moons in a single season, and it is believed there might be a sighting one night of an actual blue-colored moon. Thus “once in a blue moon” means something rare, unlike the Buck Moon which comes with regularity yearly, gracing the sky tonight.
The names given to these lunar events come from such ancient sources as Native American tribes inhabiting the U.S. northeast. In Chinese culture, the full moon of July is called the Hungry Ghost Moon, showing itself as the Buck Moon at the other side of the world tonight.
The Farmer’s Almanac has compiled names by Native Americans of earlier times. The tribes kept track of the seasons by designating each recurring full moon. Each name was applied to the entire month in which the moon was sighted. There were different moon names, but like Buck Moon tonight, they tended to be the same to all the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. The natives passed their custom to European settlers who created some of their own names. Since lunar months are 29 days long on the average, the full moon dates shift from year to year.
Here is the Farmer’s Almanac‘s list of the full moon names: Full Wolf Moon – January, Full Snow Moon – February, Full Worm Moon – March, Full Pink Moon – April, Full Flower Moon – May, Full Strawberry Moon – June, Full Buck Moon – tonight for July, Full Sturgeon Moon – August, Full Harvest Moon – September, Full Hunter’s Moon – October, Full Beaver Moon – November, Full Cold Moon – December.
The Weather Channel argues that the brighter moon will push to the background Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, which were visible earlier in July. But skywatchers should be no less enthusiastic about watching the Buck Moon whether or not tonight’s is the better show.
For those tracking Tuesday’s Buck Moon after its rise in the eastern sky early tonight: you can follow it peak at about midnight and fade into the western sky as dawn approaches. If you missed it, watch for it tomorrow.
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