The full moon of March is nearly upon us and will grace the skies later this week. Also known as the "Worm Moon," the March full moon rises on Wednesday night, a few short hours after the spring equinox.
According to Space, the vernal equinox occurs at 5:58 p.m. ET on March 20. The spring equinox signals the official start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the transition from winter to the new season. In the Southern Hemisphere, the date pinpoints the flip from summer to autumn.
"The equinox occurs when the Earth reaches a point in its orbit around the sun where the sun's rays fall directly on the equator. Day and night will be roughly the exact same length across the entire globe," explains Dave Samuhel, astronomy blogger for AccuWeather.
Less than four hours after the changing of the astronomical seasons, the "Full Worm Moon" will make its dazzling appearance, lighting up the sky with its powerful glow. And quite a glow it will be, since the full moon of March will also be a supermoon.
Why Is It Called The 'Worm Moon'?
The name of the March full moon is rooted in local folklore and reflects the connection between the time of year and its influence over the lives of the different communities.
Traditionally, the full moon of March is known as the "Worm Moon," because "at this time of the year, the ground begins to soften enough for earthworm casts to reappear," as stated by The Old Farmer's Almanac. This prompts the return of the birds — "a true sign of spring."However, different tribes called the March full moon by different names. For instance, the Ojibwe called it the "Sugar Moon," after the sap that flows in maple trees. To the Cree, the full moon of March was known as the "Eagle Moon," as this was the time when the eagles returned from their seasonal migration. Meanwhile, the Haida dubbed the "Noisy Goose Moon," for a similar reason.
The Full Moon And The Equinox
One of the things that make the 2019 "Worm Moon" special is that it peaks on the same day as the spring equinox. And, as The Old Farmers Almanac points out, this doesn't happen too often.
"The last time the full Moon and the spring equinox coincided this closely (four hours apart) was in March 2000, but the last time they occurred on the same date was on March 20, 1981!"When To Catch The 'Full Worm Moon'
The full moon will climb above the horizon at 9:43 p.m. ET.
"For observers on the U.S. East Coast, the moon will rise about 20 minutes before sunset by 7 p.m. local time on the evening of March 20, and moonset is the next morning around 7:30 a.m.," notes Space, citing the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO).The full moon will appear exceptionally bright to sky watchers looking at the glowing orb through binoculars or telescopes. While the moon's glare will not damage your eyes, it's very unlikely that you will be able to see any surface features, given the lack of shadows and, therefore, contrast.
In case you were hoping to spot some lunar craters, you might want to get a head start and whip out your telescope tonight and tomorrow night. Alternatively, you can wait a few days until after the full moon, as this will also allow you to observe lunar surface features with more clarity.
The March Supermoon
Another reason why stargazers will not want to miss the full moon is that it will also double as a supermoon. This occurs when the moon reaches its full phase at about the same time it hits perigee, or the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit around our planet.
This month, the moon will reach perigee on March 19, at 3:47 a.m. ET. On the very next day, the full moon will bloom on the night sky, making the "Worm Moon" a supermoon.
Unlike a regular full moon, a supermoon appears 7 percent larger and 15 percent brighter. This is because, during perigee, the moon comes within 22,000 miles of Earth — about 20,000 miles closer than its average distance to our planet. As such, the moonrise on Wednesday will treat sky watchers to a splendid celestial display.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, this will be the third and final supermoon of 2019. This year, stargazers enjoyed the rare opportunity of witnessing three supermoons in a row. The next supermoon to grace the skies will be the 2020 "Snow Moon," which rises on February 9.