Facts to Howl About- The Wolf Moon and All the Others

Facts to Howl About- The Wolf Moon and All the Others

You may have noticed the large moon that has graced the night skyline in mid-January. The full moon of January 12, known as the "Full Wolf Moon," , according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, only appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the Native American villages.

Each full moon's name was created to help different Native American tribes track the seasons as they change.  If you think January's Full Wolf moon carries some negative connotations , you probably don't want to think about February's "Full Snow Moon."  Can you guess how that moon got its name?  According to the Algonquin tribes' records that the Old Farmer's Almanac uses, the heaviest snows usually fall in February.  February's moon is also known as the "Hunger Moon" due to the difficulty of hunting during that month.

The full moon that appears during the month of March is known as the "Full Worm Moon" because the ground is beginning to soften as spring settles in and the earthworm casts begin to reappear in the ground.

April's full moon is known as the "Full Pink Moon" because of the reappearance of the moss pink, one of the first spring flowers.  The full moon in May is known as the "Full Flower Moon" because, as you can probably guess, flowers begin to bloom in earnest.  There's a reason for the saying "April's showers bring May flowers."

June's moon gets its name from strawberry season.  Known as the "Full Strawberry Moon," this full moon alerted the Algonquin tribes that it was time to pick the ripening fruit.  In July, the full moon is known as the "Full Buck Moon" because bucks begin to grow their new antlers.

August and September's full moons get their names from corn.  August is known as the "Green Corn Moon" or the "Full Sturgeon Moon" because sturgeon were believed to be readily caught during this time.  September's moon alerted Native American tribes to the time of harvesting corn, earning it the name "Full Corn Moon."

The "Full Hunter's Moon" in October got its name from the falling of the leaves and the fattening of the game.  It alerted the tribes that it was time for hunting and storing food for the long winter ahead.  November's "Full Beaver Moon" got its name from the Native American tribes' needs to set beaver traps to gather enough fur for the winter months.  December's full moon, known as the "Full Cold Moon" gets its name for pretty obvious reasons.

Another well-known full moon, the Harvest Moon, occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.  While it doesn't always happen at a particular time, it generally appears during September or October.  During the Harvest Moon, many fall crops are ready to be gathered, including corn, pumpkins, squash and wild rice, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

What does the full moon mean for our tides?  Let's talk science for a bit.  Gravity plays a huge part in the ocean tides.  As the earth spins on its axis, its gravity pulling inwards and centrifugal force pushing outwards keeps the ocean waters at equal levels around the planet.  Tides come into play when you add the gravitational forces of the moon.  The moon's gravitational forces have enough strength to disrupt the balance of the earth by "pulling" water towards the moon.  This creates a "bulge" in the ocean, what we commonly refer to as the high tide.   As the moon circles around the earth, the bulge moves with the moon's gravitational forces.  But, that's not the only spot on Earth experiencing a high tide.  On the opposite side of the earth facing away from the moon, the ocean is also experiencing a high tide for a completely different reason.  High tides on the side not facing the moon are caused by the earth's centrifugal force.  Because the Earth's centrifugal force is much greater than the Moon's gravitational pull, ocean water on the opposite side bulges outward.  These same forces are at play as the Earth revolves around the Sun, but at a much smaller scale.

So why are the tides so much higher during full moons and new moons?  Since the tides are influenced by both the moon and the sun, when they all line up the tidal effect increases.  These are known as spring tides because the water "springs" higher than normal.

Want to catch a total eclipse of the sun this year?  You'll want to mark August 21 on your calendar.  This eclipse will be viewable for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds at most – along a narrow path running southeastward from Oregon to South Carolina.  It will cross through parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.  If you want to catch it, plan to head down towards Charleston.  The direct path of the total eclipse falls between Georgetown and Charleston, but if you plan to stay closer to home, you'll still be able to catch a partial eclipse.  But you don't want to miss it this year, because the next total solar eclipse visible from North America won't happen again until 2024.