A Worm Moon, the last full moon of winter, hangs in the sky this week. Its other names include Death and Sugar Moon.
- A Worm Moon rising in the sky Monday and Tuesday night is the last full moon of winter.
- The March full moon is also called the Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, or Death Moon.
- People across North America and Europe have named full moons to track the seasons and months for thousands of years.
“Worm Moon” is one of several names for the March full moon rising in the sky Monday and Tuesday — the last full moon of winter.
The Worm Moon will appear full and bright on Monday and Tuesday nights, peaking in brightness at 7:42 a.m. Eastern Time.
Across North America and Europe, people have used full moons to track months and seasons for thousands of years, naming each one based on the seasonal changes it indicates.
The names assigned to full moons are often attributed to the native Algonquian peoples, who share a family of languages and originate from the area that today ranges from New England as far west as Lake Superior.
Colonial settlers across North America adopted their own version of the indigenous names, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Here are some of the many names assigned to full moons throughout the year.
Different languages and cultures characterized their moons differently, sometimes based on agricultural cycles, sometimes on natural phenomena.
March: Worm Moon, Sap Moon, Crow Moon
As spring approaches, earthworms emerge from the ground, maple trees are ripe for tapping, and migratory birds return as winter ends. According to the Almanac, that’s led Ojibwe people to call this the Sugar Moon, Algonquin or Cree to call it the Eagle Moon or Goose Moon, and northern Ojibwe to call it the Crow Comes Back Moon.
European settlers with religious calendars called this the Lenten Moon.
According to NASA, “other names are the Chaste Moon or the Death Moon, related to the fasting of Lent and traditions from when the start of spring was the end of the old year and start of the new.”
The next one: March 7, 2023
April: Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon
The pink moon is named for the pink phlox flowers that bloom in spring. The other names refer to additional staples of the changing season: growing grass, birds filling nests with eggs, and fish that swim upstream to spawn.
The next one: April 6, 2023
May: Flower Moon, Planting Moon
In May, flowers burst fully into bloom and it becomes time to sow crops again.
The next one: May 5, 2023
June: Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Hot Moon
Strawberries ripen for picking in June. Europeans dubbed this the rose moon, and other cultures called it the hot moon because it harkens summer heat ahead.
The next one: June 3, 2023
July: Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, Hay Moon
Deer grow new, velvety antlers in July, and thunderstorms rage aplenty in some parts of North America. For Anglo-Saxons, July was all about hay.
The next one: July 3, 2023
August: Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon
Tribes near the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain knew August was the best time to catch sturgeon, an enormous, hearty fish. Some people also think the moon appears more reddish in color this month because of the heat.
The next one: August 1, 2023
September: Harvest Moon, Corn Moon, Barley Moon
Over the millennia, September’s full moon has signified to farmers that it’s time to finish harvesting corn and other crops. A Harvest Moon sometimes occurs in October (the moon doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar), but it’s always the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox.
Because the harvest moon rises with the setting sun, it looks larger than usual. These bright moonlit nights give farmers a little extra time to harvest their crops.
The next ones: September 29, 2023
October: Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Travel Moon
These names refer to the time of year when leaves have fallen, the deer are fat, and animals are coming into harvested fields to eat what’s left. Historically, hunters took advantage of October to store meat for the winter.
The next one: October 28, 2023
November: Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon
Beavers prepare for winter in November, as do trappers. This moon signaled the time to catch beavers and secure a supply of warm furs before the swamps froze.
The next one: November 27, 2023
December: Cold Moon, Long Night’s Moon
December has the longest, darkest nights of the year, and the moon sits above the horizon longer than usual. Some Europeans and their descendants in North America also called the December full moon the “moon before Yule.”
The next one: December 26, 2023
January: Wolf Moon, Old Moon, Ice Moon
In mid-winter, as the story goes, hungry wolves would gather outside villages in North America and medieval Europe and howl into the night. This full moon was sometimes also called the “moon after Yule.”
The next one: January 25, 2024
February: Snow Moon, Hunger Moon
In North America, February marks the depths of winter, when snow blankets the ground and fresh food was traditionally harder to come by. Because it’s a shorter month, some February’s don’t have a full moon at all.
The next one: February 24, 2024
Some full moons are called supermoons or micromoons. The contemporary terms refer to how large and small the moon looks at various points in its elliptical orbit.
Supermoons occur when the moon is at perigee — the closest point to Earth. They can cause stronger ocean tides and weather events.
Micromoons are the opposite, occurring at apogee — when the moon is furthest from Earth. They can reduce the variation in spring tides by 2 inches. Micromoons appear about 14% smaller than supermoons, and sometimes seem dimmer, since the area illuminated by the sun appears 30% smaller, according to TimeandDate.com.
Since the International Astronomical Union has not officially defined supermoons or micromoons, astronomers disagree on which full moons get the designation.
The next full supermoon: July 3, 2023
The next full micromoon: February 24, 2024
Blue moons are like special bonuses. They occur every two or three years, when a month or season has one extra full moon.
When an astronomical season (the time between solstice and equinox) has four full moons instead of the normal three, the third one is a seasonal blue moon.
When a calendar month has two full moons, the second one is a monthly blue moon. That happens because the lunar month is only 29 days long, while the Gregorian calendar month is usually 30 or 31 days long.
The moon doesn’t actually appear blue on these occasions. That would only happen if dust or smoke particles of a particular size cloud the atmosphere, say after a forest fire, volcanic eruption, or dust storm.
The next seasonal blue moon: August 19, 2024
The next monthly blue moon: August 30, 2023
Look up: 5 planets will align in Tuesday's night sky – CBC.ca
Tonight, just after sunset, skywatchers across B.C. will be in for an eye-popping show.
Five planets — Mars, Uranus, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter — will be lined up in an arc and visible on the western horizon from almost anywhere on Earth.
“I like to call it, essentially, a cosmic coincidence,” said Andrew Ferreira, a public relations representative with the Vancouver branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
“It’s purely just a coincidence that, you know, five planets happened to line up more or less from our perspective.”
In an interview with CBC, Ferreira said the best time to view the phenomenon will be just after the sun drops below the horizon. Keeping watch just after sunset is best, because as the night sky moves, “it’s essentially going to keep panning these planets down below the horizon.”
Ferreira’s suggestion is to spot the half-moon in the sky and trace a visual line down from there to see Mars. Below that will be Uranus and Venus. Below Venus will be Mercury, and closest to the horizon will be Jupiter.
Ferreira said Venus will outshine Uranus, but Uranus will be visible as a “greenish-blueish glow.” Mercury, he said, will be very faint but visible through binoculars, and people in downtown Vancouver or other urban centres might not be able to see Jupiter because of its low position on the horizon.
Getting away from city lights and buildings increases the chances for clearer viewing. Ferreira said giving your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the sky is also a good idea.
Great conditions for viewing
Of course, people hoping to catch the planetary procession will also benefit from clear skies overhead. And there’s good news on that front.
“The forecast for almost the entire province is looking great for a night-sky viewing,” said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.
“We have a high pressure system in place for B.C. which is bringing cloudless skies for almost everyone. The exceptions are a few high clouds that may sneak in tonight to northern B.C.”
“It may get a little chilly though with no clouds to keep the daytime heat in, so bundle up when you look up tonight.”
Alignments happen once or twice each year
As for the rarity of planetary alignments, Ferreira said ones like tonight happen once or twice each year. But an alignment of all the planets in the solar system, minus Earth, “that’s something like once every 200 or 300 years,” he said. “So it kind of depends on the objects and how many of them are lined up.”
Rare or not, Ferreira said events like tonight are always a joy, even for avid skywatchers like himself.
“It’s exciting being able to tell people about it — to get other people excited about what we do,” he said.
“I always tell people that astronomy is the easiest science to do because all you need is your eyes and the ground. You lie on your back and you look up and you know you’re doing astronomy.”
NASA’S JWST measures the temperature of a rocky exoplanet
An international team of researchers has used the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to measure the temperature of the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b. The measurement is based on the planet’s thermal emission: heat energy given off in the form of infrared light detected by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The result indicates that the planet’s dayside has a temperature of about 500 kelvins (roughly 230°C), and suggests that it has no significant atmosphere. This is the first detection of any form of light emitted by an exoplanet as small and as cool as the rocky planets in our own solar system. The result marks an important step in determining whether planets orbiting small active stars like TRAPPIST-1 can sustain atmospheres needed to support life. It also bodes well for Webb’s ability to characterise temperate, Earth-sized exoplanets using MIRI.
“These observations really take advantage of Webb’s mid-infrared capability,” said Thomas Greene, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and lead author on the study published today in the journal Nature. “No previous telescopes have had the sensitivity to measure such dim mid-infrared light.”
Rocky planets orbiting ultra cool red dwarfs
In early 2017, astronomers reported the discovery of seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool red dwarf star (or M dwarf) 40 light-years from Earth. What is remarkable about the planets is their similarity in size and mass to the inner, rocky planets of our own solar system. Although they all orbit much closer to their star than any of our planets orbit the Sun – all could fit comfortably within the orbit of Mercury – they receive comparable amounts of energy from their tiny star.
TRAPPIST-1 b, the innermost planet, has an orbital distance about one hundredth that of Earth’s and receives about four times the amount of energy that Earth gets from the Sun. Although it is not within the system’s habitable zone, observations of the planet can provide important information about its sibling planets, as well as those of other M-dwarf systems.
“There are ten times as many of these stars in the Milky Way as there are stars like the Sun, and they are twice as likely to have rocky planets as stars like the Sun,” explained Greene. “But they are also very active – they are very bright when they’re young and they give off flares and X-rays that can wipe out an atmosphere.”
Co-author Elsa Ducrot from CEA in France, who was on the team that conducted the initial studies of the TRAPPIST-1 system, added, “It’s easier to characterise terrestrial planets around smaller, cooler stars. If we want to understand habitability around M stars, the TRAPPIST-1 system is a great laboratory. These are the best targets we have for looking at the atmospheres of rocky planets.”
Detecting an atmosphere (or not)
Previous observations of TRAPPIST-1 b with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, as well as NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, found no evidence for a puffy atmosphere, but were not able to rule out a dense one.
One way to reduce the uncertainty is to measure the planet’s temperature. “This planet is tidally locked, with one side facing the star at all times and the other in permanent darkness,” said Pierre-Olivier Lagage from CEA, a co-author on the paper. “If it has an atmosphere to circulate and redistribute the heat, the dayside will be cooler than if there is no atmosphere.”
The team used a technique called secondary eclipse photometry, in which MIRI measured the change in brightness from the system as the planet moved behind the star. Although TRAPPIST-1 b is not hot enough to give off its own visible light, it does have an infrared glow. By subtracting the brightness of the star on its own (during the secondary eclipse) from the brightness of the star and planet combined, they were able to successfully calculate how much infrared light is being given off by the planet.
Measuring minuscule changes in brightness
Webb’s detection of a secondary eclipse is itself a major milestone. With the star more than 1,000 times brighter than the planet, the change in brightness is less than 0.1%.
“There was also some fear that we’d miss the eclipse. The planets all tug on each other, so the orbits are not perfect,” said Taylor Bell, the post-doctoral researcher at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute who analysed the data. “But it was just amazing: The time of the eclipse that we saw in the data matched the predicted time within a couple of minutes.”
Analysis of data from five separate secondary eclipse observations indicates that TRAPPIST-1 b has a dayside temperature of about 500 kelvins, or roughly 230°C. The team thinks the most likely interpretation is that the planet does not have an atmosphere.
“We compared the results to computer models showing what the temperature should be in different scenarios,” explained Ducrot. “The results are almost perfectly consistent with a blackbody made of bare rock and no atmosphere to circulate the heat. We also didn’t see any signs of light being absorbed by carbon dioxide, which would be apparent in these measurements.”
This research was conducted as part of Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program 1177, which is one of eight approved GTO and General Observer (GO) programs designed to help fully characterise the TRAPPIST-1 system. Additional secondary eclipse observations of TRAPPIST-1 b are currently in progress, and now that they know how good the data can be, the team hopes to eventually capture a full phase curve showing the change in brightness over the entire orbit. This will allow them to see how the temperature changes from the day to the nightside and confirm if the planet has an atmosphere or not.
“There was one target that I dreamed of having,” said Lagage, who worked on the development of the MIRI instrument for more than two decades. “And it was this one. This is the first time we can detect the emission from a rocky, temperate planet. It’s a really important step in the story of discovering exoplanets.”
Uncrewed Russian spacecraft that leaked coolant lands safely
A Russian space capsule safely returned to Earth without a crew Tuesday, months after it suffered a coolant leak in orbit.
The Soyuz MS-22 leaked coolant in December while attached to the International Space Station. Russian space officials blamed the leak on a tiny meteoroid that punctured the craft’s external radiator. They launched an empty replacement capsule last month to serve as a lifeboat for the crew.
The damaged capsule safely landed Tuesday under a striped parachute in the steppes of Kazakhstan, touching down as scheduled at 5:45 p.m. (7:45 a.m. EDT) 147 kilometres (91 miles) southeast of Zhezkazgan under clear blue skies.
Space officials determined it would be too risky to bring NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back in the Soyuz in March as originally planned, as cabin temperatures would spike with no coolant, potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and exposing the suited-up crew to excessive heat.
The three launched in September for what should have been a six-month mission on the International Space Station. They now are scheduled to return to Earth in September in a new Soyuz that arrived at the space outpost last month with no one on board, meaning the trio will spend a year in orbit.
Also on the station are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, the United Arab Emirates’ Sultan Alneyadi, and Russia’s Andrey Fedyaev.
A similar coolant leak was spotted in February on the Russian Progress MS-21 cargo ship docked at the space outpost, raising suspicions of a manufacturing flaw. Russian state space corporation Roscosmos ruled out any defects after a check and concluded that both incidents resulted from hits by meteoroids.
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