Bright Venus, a crescent Moon and the edge of a mountain in Utah.

Venus, the Moon and a bit of Earth. Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

The next full Moon is the Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, Worm Moon, Lenten Moon, a supermoon, the Hindu Holi Festival, and the Hebrew Purim Holiday.

The next full Moon will be on Wednesday evening, March 20, 2019, appearing "opposite" the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 9:43 PM EDT. The full Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Tuesday evening through Friday morning. Most commercial calendars show this full Moon on Thursday, March 21, 2019, because they use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is 4 hours later than EDT.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

The Maine Farmer's Almanac first published "Indian" names for the full Moons in the 1930's. Some writers tie these names to the months of our modern calendar, but I think it more likely these names were tied to the seasons. Right now, the names by season and names by month are out of sync, but they will align again later this spring.

Going by the seasons, as the first full Moon of spring, the Native American tribes of the northeastern United States knew this as the Pink Moon, a name that comes from the herb moss pink, also known as wild ground phlox, which in the Eastern U.S. is one of the earliest widespread flowers of Spring. Other names for this Moon include the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Fish Moon, as this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Going by the European months, the full Moon in March would be called the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, or Worm Moon. I discussed the origins of these names in my previous Moon Missive.

The Europeans called this the Lenten Moon, as this Moon corresponds with Lent, and the next full Moon occurs just before Easter. Generally, the Christian holiday of Easter, also called Pascha, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon of Spring, although there are differences between the times of these astronomical events and the calendars used by the Eastern and Western churches. This is one of the years where it makes a difference. Even though this will be the first full Moon of spring, Western Christianity will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, April 21, 2019, the Sunday after the full Moon after next, while Eastern Christianity will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

This full Moon will be a supermoon. The term "supermoon" was introduced by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and has become popular, particularly when it refers to a brighter than usual full Moon. By Richard Nolle's definition, the full Moons in January, February, and March of 2019 are supermoons, with the February Moon the brightest of the three.

As the full Moon in the Hindu month of Falgun, this Moon corresponds with the spring festival Holi, which among other things includes a free-for-all game involving the spraying of colored powders and/or colored water on whomever wanders by.

In lunisolar calendars the months change with the new Moon and full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full Moon is the middle of the second month of the Chinese calendar. Since twelve lunar months are about 11 days shorter than a solar year, lunisolar calendars add an occasional leap month to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons. In the Hebrew calendar this full Moon is in the middle of one of these leap months, the second Adar or Adar Bet. The 14th day of Adar, corresponding with this Full Moon, is the holiday Purim. Purim commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a plot to have them all killed. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.

In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon a few days after the New Moon. This full Moon is near the middle of Rajab, the seventh month of the calendar, one of the four sacred months in which warfare is prohibited.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next:

As spring begins, the daily periods of sunlight will be lengthening at their fastest for the year. On the day of the full Moon, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, morning twilight will begin at 6:14 AM, sunrise will be at 7:12 AM, the Sun will reach a maximum altitude of 51.0 degrees at 1:16 PM, sunset will be at 7:20 PM, and evening twilight will end at 8:18 PM EDT. By the day of the full Moon after next, Friday, April 19, 2019, morning twilight will begin at 5:25 AM, sunrise will be at 6:26 AM, the Sun will reach a maximum altitude of 62.4 degrees at 1:07 PM, sunset will be at 7:49 PM, and evening twilight will end at 8:50 PM EDT. Over the 30 days from full Moon to full Moon, the start of morning twilight will have shifted 49 minutes earlier and the end of evening twilight will have shifted 32 minutes later.

On the evening of the full Moon on March 20, 2019, as evening twilight ends, the bright stars of the local arm of our galaxy, including the constellation Orion, will appear spread across the southwestern sky from the south-southeast to the northwest. The bright star appearing nearly overhead will be Pollux, one of the twins in the Constellation Gemini. The star to the northwest of Pollux is the other twin, Castor. The planet Mars will appear in the west about 39 degrees above the horizon. As the month progresses, Mars will appear to shift gradually towards the west-northwest, appearing near the bright star Aldebaran by mid-April. By the night of the full Moon on April 19, 2019, as evening twilight ends, the bright stars of the local arm and Mars will appear near the horizon in the west-southwest, with Mars about 28 degrees above the horizon.

On the morning of the full Moon on March 20, 2019, as morning twilight begins, Mercury will have not risen yet, but three other planets will be visible. The brightest, Venus, as the Morning Star, will appear in the east-southeast about 6 degrees above the horizon. The second brightest, Jupiter will appear in the south at about 28 degrees above the horizon. Between Venus and Jupiter will be Saturn, appearing in the southeast about 21 degrees above the horizon. About 23 minutes after morning twilight begins, the planet Mercury will rise in the east, just starting to be visible in the glow of dawn. Mercury will have passed between the Earth and the Sun on March 14.

As the month progresses, Jupiter, Saturn, and the background of stars will appear to shift towards the west, while Venus gradually shifts to the east and towards the horizon. Mercury reaches its greatest angular separation from the Sun in the morning sky for this apparition on April 11, but is still too close to the Sun to be above the horizon before morning twilight begins. Mercury and Venus will appear at their closest to each other for this apparition around April 16, 2019. By the morning of the full Moon on April 19, 2019, Jupiter will appear in the south-southwest about 28 degrees above the horizon, Saturn will appear in the south-southeast at about 27 degrees above the horizon, and Venus will appear in the east only about 1 degree above the horizon. Mercury will rise in the east about 10 minutes after morning twilight begins and should be visible until about 30 minutes before sunrise, appearing to the lower left of Venus.

On Thursday morning, March 14, 2019, the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 6:27 AM EDT.

On Thursday afternoon, March 14, 2019, at 3:03 PM EDT (2019-Mar-14 19:03 UTC), Near Earth Object (2019 EF2), between 19 and 43 meters (63 to 141 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 4.5 lunar distances, traveling at 8.47 kilometers per second (18,945 miles per hour).

Thursday, March 14, 2019, at about 10 PM EDT, will be when the planet Mercury passes on the near side of the Sun as seen from Earth, called inferior conjunction.

On Saturday morning, March 16, 2019, at 3:44 AM EDT (2019-Mar-16 07:44 UTC with 2 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2019 ES), between 24 and 54 meters (80 to 178 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at between 9.0 and 9.1 lunar distances (nominally 9.0), traveling at 7.01 kilometers per second (15,673 miles per hour).

On Monday morning, March 18, 2019, at 7:08 AM EDT (2019-Mar-18 11:08 UTC), Near Earth Object (2019 DH1), between 16 and 36 meters (53 to 117 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 8.5 lunar distances, traveling at 5.02 kilometers per second (11,237 miles per hour).

On Monday afternoon, March 18, 2019, at 1:34 PM EDT (2019-Mar-18 17:34 UTC), Near Earth Object (2019 CL2), between 56 and 124 meters (182 to 407 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 10.2 lunar distances, traveling at 7.54 kilometers per second (16,863 miles per hour).

On Monday evening into Tuesday morning, March 18 to 19, 2019, the bright star Regulus will appear to the lower right of the nearly full waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end at 8:16 PM, the Moon will reach its highest in the sky at 11:40 AM, and Regulus will set in the west-northwest at 6:12 AM EDT, just a few minutes before morning twilight begins.

Tuesday afternoon, March 19, 2019, at 3:47 PM EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

On Wednesday morning, March 20, 2019, at 5:03 AM EDT (2019-Mar-20 09:03 UTC), Near Earth Object (2019 CD5), between 101 and 226 meters (332 to 741 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 10.1 lunar distances, traveling at 17.03 kilometers per second (38,092 miles per hour).

Wednesday evening, March 20, 2019, at 5:58 PM EDT, will be the vernal equinox, the astronomical start of spring.

As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 9:43 PM EDT, just a few hours after the start of spring. Although not as close to the Earth and as large as the full Moon in February, this full Moon is close enough to be a supermoon.

On Thursday morning, March 21, 2019, at 3:58 AM EDT (2019-Mar-21 07:58 UTC with 2 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2019 DS), between 29 and 65 meters (96 to 214 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at between 17.1 and 17.7 lunar distances (nominally 17.4), traveling at 8.93 kilometers per second (19,972 miles per hour).

On Thursday night, March 21, 2019, at 9:54 PM EDT (2019-Mar-22 01:54 UTC with 9 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2019 EA2), between 18 and 39 meters (58 to 129 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 0.8 lunar distances, traveling at 5.37 kilometers per second (12,016 miles per hour).

Thursday night, March 21, into Friday morning, March 22, 2019, the bright star appearing below the Moon will be Spica. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will reach its highest in the sky for the night on Friday morning at 2:24 AM, when the Moon and Spica will be about 9 degrees apart. The will have shifted about a degree closer to each other by the time morning twilight begins at 6:11 AM EDT.

On Tuesday night, March 26, 2019, at 9:27 PM EDT (2019-Mar-27 01:27 UTC with 2 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2019 EN), between 160 and 358 meters (525 to 1175 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 9.7 lunar distances, traveling at 15.24 kilometers per second (34,096 miles per hour).

On Wednesday morning, March 27, 2019, the bright planet Jupiter will appear to the right of the waning gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, Jupiter will rise in the east-southeast at 1:40 AM and the Moon will rise 5 minutes later at 1:45 AM EDT. Morning twilight will begin around 6:03 AM, when the pair will be about 28 degrees above the southern horizon.

Just after midnight on Thursday morning, March 28, 2019, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 12:10 AM EDT.

On Friday morning, March 29, 2019, the planet Saturn will appear to the upper right of the waning crescent Moon. For the Washington, DC area, Saturn will rise in the east-southeast at 3:18 AM and the Moon will rise 10 minutes later at 3:28 AM EDT. The will appear slightly more than 20 degrees above the southeast horizon by the time morning twilight begins at 6 AM.

Sunday evening, March 31, 2019, at 8:14 PM EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

On Tuesday morning, April 2, 2019, if you have a very clear view of the horizon in the east-southeast just before dawn, you might be able to see the bright planet Venus, the waning crescent Moon, and the planet Mercury. For the Washington, DC area, Venus will rise at 5:34 AM, morning twilight will begin at 5:53 AM, the Moon will rise below Venus at 5:54 AM, and Mercury will rise to the left of the Moon and Venus at 5:55 AM EDT. They will quickly be lost in the glow of dawn, so you may need binoculars to see them (but be sure to stop looking well before sunrise, as focusing sunlight directly into your eyes with lenses is a painful, bad idea that will cause permanent damage).

Sometime within a week or so around Thursday, April 4, 2019 (2019-Apr-04 17:26 UTC with almost 5 days uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2016 GE1), between 13 and 28 meters (42 to 93 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at between 1.1 and 13.8 lunar distances (nominally 3.9), traveling at 10.13 kilometers per second (22,658 miles per hour).

Friday morning, April 5, 2019, at 4:50 AM EDT, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from the Earth. In the Chinese calendar, the third month starts at midnight on April 5 (in China's time zone). In the Hebrew calendar the month of Nisan starts at sundown on Friday, April 5.

In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon a few days after the New Moon. Saturday evening, April 6, 2019, will mark the beginning of Sha'ban, the eighth month of the calendar and the month before Ramadan.

On Monday evening, April 8, 2019, the planet Mars will appear in the west about 8 degrees to the upper right of the waxing crescent Moon, with the bright star Aldebaran to the upper left.

On Tuesday morning, April 9, 2019, at 7:25 AM EDT (2019-Apr-09 11:25 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 UR), between 13 and 28 meters (42 to 93 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 13.0 lunar distances, traveling at 4.57 kilometers per second (10,218 miles per hour).

Sometime around Tuesday, April 9, 2019 (2019-Apr-09 23:05 UTC with over 2 and a half days uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2016 GW221), between 29 and 65 meters (96 to 214 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at between 9.1 and 11.5 lunar distances (nominally 10.1), traveling at 5.30 kilometers per second (11,850 miles per hour).

On Tuesday evening, April 9, 2019, the waxing crescent Moon will have shifted to appear above the star Aldebaran, with the planet Mars to the right.

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, at about 3 PM EDT, the planet Mercury will be at its greatest angular separation from the Sun as seen from the Earth, called greatest western elongation, appearing half full in the morning before sunrise when viewed by telescope.

On Friday afternoon, April 12, 2019, the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 3:06 PM EDT.

On Sunday evening, April 14, into Monday morning, April 15, 2019, the bright star Regulus will appear below the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the pair will appear high in the southeastern sky as evening twilight ends at 8:44 PM, and will appear to shift closer together until Regulus sets in the west-northwest Monday morning at 4:26 AM EDT.

Tuesday evening, April 16, 2019, at 6:02 PM EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

On Thursday mid-day, April 18, 2019, at 12:11 PM EDT (2019-Apr-18 16:11 UTC with 2 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2012 XO134), between 42 and 94 meters (138 to 309 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 14.7 lunar distances, traveling at 10.95 kilometers per second (24,504 miles per hour).

On Thursday evening, April 18, into Friday morning, April 19, 2019, the bright star near the full Moon will be Spica.

The full Moon after next will be on Friday morning, April 19, 2019, at 7:12 AM EDT. This year the light of the full Moon will interfere with the visibility of the annual Lyrid meteor shower.

On Friday morning, April 19, 2019, at 7:13 AM EDT (2019-Apr-19 11:13 UTC), Near Earth Object 522684 (2016 JP), between 160 and 358 meters (525 to 1,175 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at 19.0 lunar distances, traveling at 11.50 kilometers per second (25,728 miles per hour).

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