by ANNIE FURMAN
“Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly…” from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet sums up our love affair with our ever changing moon. When we admire the night sky we’re always met with the moon in one of its many different phases. We learn about the different phases when we’re young, but truly fixate on the moon once a month when its 100% illuminated; or when its “full”. The full moon has been the highlight for countless campfire stories, poems and story books for ages. The reason why becomes evident when you look at how the full moon has taken on its own personalities as people do their best to describe it.
According to spaceplace.nasa.gov there are four different types of full moons based off of different astronomical events that can happen throughout the year. The first is the blood moon. The blood moon occurs during a total lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse is when the moon passes completely into the earth’s shadow. This can only occur when the sun, earth and the moon are all completely aligned.
The second type of moon is called a supermoon and its partner the micromoon. A supermoon is when the moon looks larger in the night sky than it normally would. This is due to the fact that the moon is on an elliptical orbit so it has rotations where it will be closer or furthest to the Earth. This is called the perigee of the orbit when close and the apogee when far.
The next type of moon is called the blue moon. The phrase “once in a blue moon” comes from this astronomical phenomenon that is when there is a full moon twice in the same month. Now, contrary to popular belief the moon doesn’t appear to be blue during this time. The phrase is used more to describe the rarity since this only happens approximately once every two and a half years.
The final type of moon is called the harvest moon. This describes the first full moon closest to the start of autumn. This dates back to before we had electricity, when farmers would actually use the light of the full moon to be able to harvest their crops late into the night.
Naming the full moon dates back much further than this. Many of the different months have a full moon that has been associated with it. For example, on countryliving.com we see many examples of this such as the wolf moon, which occurs in January, when the wolves start to howl at the sight of the moon. Another great example is the Strawberry moon which occurs in June, when the strawberries begin to be in full bloom.
Galileo wrote in 1610 “it is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the moon,” and nothing has changed since then.