Whimsical animation of a full Moon becoming a jack-o'-lan·tern in the sky.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Next Full Moon is the Hunter's Moon; a Micro Blue Moon; the Beaver Moon; the Frost, Frosty, or Snow Moon; Sharad Purnima; and the Thadingyut, Hpaung Daw U, and Low Krathong Festival Moon.

The next full Moon will be on the morning of Halloween, Saturday, October 31, 2020, appearing "opposite" the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 10:49 AM EDT. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Thursday night through Sunday night, making this a full Moon weekend.

This will be the Hunter's Moon, the full Moon after the Harvest Moon. According to the Farmer's Almanac, with the leaves falling and the deer fattened, this was the time to hunt. Since the harvesters had reaped the fields, hunters could easily see the animals that have come out to glean (and the foxes that have come out to prey on them). The earliest use of the term "Hunter's Moon" cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1710.

For most of the Earth, this full Moon will be the second full Moon in the month of October, making it a Blue Moon by the newer definition introduced by Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946. However, if you are in the time zones of Vladivostok, Papau New Guinea, Australian Central Time, etc., or in time zones to the east towards the International Dateline, this full Moon will be on November 1, 2020, and the full Moon at the end of November will be the Blue Moon (the second full Moon of the month for these time zones). Since this full Moon occurs near when the Moon is farthest from the Earth (apogee), this is a Micro Moon (the opposite of a "Supermoon").

Moon phases chart: Full Moon, October 1
Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the 1930's the Maine Farmer's Almanac first published "Indian" names for the full Moons of the year tied to the European months. I think it more likely these Native American names were loosely tied to the seasons (especially if they were in use before contact with Europeans). With two full Moons in October 2020, the Moon names by season and Moon names by month will be off by a month. This means the names I use based on the seasons will differ from the names other authors use based on the month. They will align again the next time we have four full Moons in a season (the older definition of a Blue Moon), which will happen on August 22, 2021. In all likelihood neither/both are right. From what I have read of traditional names given to full Moons around the world prior to the introduction of modern timekeeping, in most cases the tribal elders would decide on the name of the Moon based on what was going on at the time. For example, if it looked like the strawberries were going to be ripe, then it was the Strawberry Moon. Full Moon names were used more to describe and remember events, or to help remember what was likely to come up in the near future, but these cultures did not generally need to accurately specify exact dates far in advance.

Going by season, as the second full Moon of autumn, this full Moon is the Beaver Moon. One interpretation is that mid-Fall was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Moon came from how active beavers were as they prepared for winter. Other names for this Moon (probably from the more northern tribes) were the Frost or Frosty Moon and the Snow Moon, although these names were also used for the last Moon of Fall or the full Moon in December.

This full Moon occurs around the end of the seasonal monsoon rains in the Indian Subcontinent. For Hindus, this full Moon is Sharad Purnima, a harvest festival marking the end of the rains. For many Buddhists this Moon is the end of Vassa, a three-month annual retreat called in English the "Rains Retreat" or "Buddhist Lent." In Myanmar the end of Vassa is celebrated as the Thadingyut Festival, also known as the Lighting Festival. This full Moon falls towards the end of the Buddhist Hpaung Daw U Festival, which started on October 17 and will end on November 3, 2020. In Thailand and nearby countries this full Moon is the Loi Krathong festival, which includes decorating baskets and floating them on a river.

In most lunisolar calendars the months change with the new Moon and full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full Moon is in the middle of the ninth month of the Chinese calendar, Marcheshvan in the Hebrew calendar, and Rabiʽ al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar.

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:

Darkest Mornings

In late October, if you notice you have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning, you have a good reason (or at least a plausible excuse...). For Washington, DC, (and similar latitudes in the USA at least), the mornings from Sunday, October 25, to Saturday, October 31, 2020, will be the darkest mornings of the year with the latest sunrises (by our modern clock). For the Washington, DC area (using the location of NASA Headquarters), on Saturday, October 31, 2020, the day of the full Moon and the last day of Daylight Savings Time, morning twilight will begin at 6:36 AM EDT, sunrise will be at 7:35 AM (9 minutes later in EDT than the latest sunrises of winter in EST), solar noon will be at 12:51:37 PM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 36.73 degrees, sunset will be at 6:08 PM, and evening twilight will end at 7:07 PM.

Fall Back!

On Sunday morning, November 1, 2020, at 2 AM EDT, we "fall back" to 1 AM EST, making the change to Standard Time. This means you will have an extra hour to sleep in. Morning twilight will begin at 5:37 AM EST, sunrise will be at 6:36 AM, solar noon will be at 11:51:35 AM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 36.41 degrees, sunset will be at 5:07 PM, and evening twilight will end at 6:06 PM.

By the day of the full Moon after next (Monday, November 30, 2020), morning twilight will begin at 6:05 AM EST, sunrise will be at 7:07 AM, solar noon will be at 11:56:59 AM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 29.35 degrees, sunset will be at 4:47 PM, and evening twilight will end at 5:49 PM.

Oct. 31: Halloween Full Moon, Three Planets and Bright Stars

On the evening of the full Moon on October 31, 2020, as evening twilight ends (at 7:07 PM EDT for the Washington, DC area), bright Jupiter will appear in the south-southwest about 27 degrees above the horizon with Saturn to the upper left of Jupiter at about 29 degrees above the horizon. Mars will be shining brightly in the east-southeast about 22 degrees above the horizon. The bright star appearing nearly overhead (at 84 degrees above the northern horizon) will be Deneb, one of the three bright stars in the "Summer Triangle." The other stars in the triangle are Vega to the west and Altair to the south-southwest. As the lunar cycle progresses, these planets and the background of stars will appear to shift towards the west. In addition, Jupiter and Saturn will gradually shift closer to each other (appearing at their closest later in December).

We are coming to the end of the evenings with good viewing of the planets Jupiter and Saturn with a backyard telescope. With the change to Standard Time, Jupiter will be setting before 10 PM in early November and before 9 PM after mid-November, although with the earlier sunsets there will still be several hours each night to view these planets. Jupiter and Saturn were at their closest and brightest for the year in July. With clear skies and a telescope you should be able to see Jupiter's four bright moons, Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io, shifting positions noticeably in the course of an evening. For Saturn, you should be able to see the brightly illuminated rings as well as the motion of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Mars will remain high and visible, having reached its closest and brightest for the year on October 13, 2020. As the centaurs in the Harry Potter books say, for these evenings "Mars is bright tonight."

By the evening of the full Moon after next on Monday, November 31, 2020, as evening twilight ends (at 5:49 PM EST for the Washington, DC area), the bright planet Jupiter will appear 20 degrees above the horizon in the southwest with the planet Saturn appearing to the upper left of Jupiter at 22 degrees above the horizon. The planet Mars will appear about 42 degrees above the horizon in the east-southeast. The bright star appearing closest to directly overhead will still be Deneb, appearing 70 degrees above the horizon in the west-northwest.

On the morning of the full Moon on Saturday, October 31, 2020, as morning twilight begins (at 6:36 AM EDT), the bright planet Venus will appear in the east-southeast about 21 degrees above the horizon. The planet Mercury will be rising shortly after morning twilight begins and should be visible low in the east-southeast until it is lost in the glow of dawn. The bright star appearing closest to overhead (78 degrees about the south-southwestern horizon) will be Pollux, the brighter of the twins in the constellation Gemini. The constellation Orion will appear about 40 degrees above the horizon in the southwest, with the bright stars of the Orion–Cygnus Arm of our home galaxy spread from the south towards the west-northwest.

As the lunar cycle progresses, the background of stars will appear to shift towards the west each morning while the planet Venus will appear to shift slowly towards the east, dimming slightly as it moves farther away from the Earth and towards the far side of the Sun. The planet Mercury will appear slightly higher in the east-southeast each morning until November 10, 2020 (when it will be about 7 degrees above the horizon as morning twilight begins), after which it will begin to shift back towards the horizon again. The morning of November 26 will be the last morning Mercury will be above the horizon as morning twilight begins, although Mercury may remain visible after it rises until about December 6, 2020.

By the morning of the full Moon after next on November 30, 2020, as morning twilight begins (at 6:05 AM EST for the Washington, DC area), the bright planet Venus will appear in the east-southeast about 13 degrees above the horizon. Mercury will rise at 6:14 AM (about 9 minutes after morning twilight begins) and may be visible until about 30 minutes before sunrise (about 6:37 AM). The bright star appearing closes to overhead will be Regulus, which will be about 62 degrees above the horizon in the south-southwest. The bright stars of the Orion–Cygnus Arm of our home galaxy including the brightest of the stars, Sirius, and the constellation Orion will appear low on the horizon from the southwest to the northwest.

There will be several small meteor showers during this lunar cycle, the most notable being the Leonids, which are expected to be active from November 6 to 30, and peak on the morning of November 17, 2020, when moonlight will not interfere. Under ideal conditions this shower is expected to produce between 10 and 20 visible meteors per hour at its peak. Ideal conditions include a dark place far from any light sources with clear skies (no clouds or high hazes), a clear view of a large expanse of the sky, and plenty of uninterrupted darkness to allow your eyes to adapt. The best time to look should be well after midnight but before any sign of dawn begins (before about 5:21 AM EST on November 17 for the Washington, DC area). The other showers are expected to peak at 5 visible meteors per hour or less under ideal viewing conditions, which very few of us have access to in our urban and suburban environments.

Even though they are not usually visible, I include in these Moon missives information about Near Earth Objects (mostly asteroids) that may pass the Earth within 5 lunar distances, because I find it interesting that we have discovered so many. On Monday night, October 26, 2020, at 11:33 PM EDT (2020-Oct-27 03:33 UTC), Near Earth Object (2020 UU4), between 12 and 26 meters (38 to 85 feet) across, will pass the Earth at between 1.8 and 1.9 lunar distances (nominally 1.8) traveling at 11.09 kilometers per second (24,810 miles per hour).

On Tuesday morning, October 27, 2020, at 4:40 AM EDT (2020-Oct-27 08:40 UTC), Near Earth Object (2020 TD8), between 11 and 24 meters (35 to 78 feet) across, will pass the Earth at 1.6 lunar distances traveling at 7.58 kilometers per second (16,950 miles per hour).

On Wednesday morning, October 28, 2020, at 2:10 AM EDT (2020-Oct-28 06:10 UTC), Near Earth Object (2020 TR5), between 15 and 34 meters (50 to 112 feet) across, will pass the Earth at 4.0 lunar distances traveling at 8.80 kilometers per second (19,690 miles per hour).

Later on Wednesday morning at 8:13 AM EDT (2020-Oct-28 12:13 UTC), Near Earth Object (2020 UN1), between 22 and 49 meters (73 to 162 feet) across, will pass the Earth at 4.1 lunar distances traveling at 10.06 kilometers per second (22,499 miles per hour).

Thursday morning, October 29, 2020, will be the first morning that the planet Mercury will be above the horizon in the east-southeast 30 minutes before sunrise (an approximation of when it might first be visible in the glow of dawn). Mercury passed between the Earth and the Sun 4 days earlier.

Thursday night, October 29, 2020, is the second of the two Japanese Tsukimi or "Moon-Viewing" festivals, which takes place on the 13th day of the lunar month and celebrates the viewing of the waxing gibbous Moon a few days before it is full.

On Thursday night into Friday morning, October 29 to 30, 2020, the bright planet Mars will appear near the gibbous waxing Moon. As evening twilight ends (at 7:09 PM EDT for the Washington, DC area), the Moon will appear about 17 degrees above the eastern horizon, with Mars appearing above the Moon. The Moon will reach its highest in the sky for the night around midnight with Mars to the right. Mars will set first in the west on Friday morning at 5:54 AM, with the Moon setting at 6:27 AM, just a little before morning twilight begins.

Friday afternoon, October 30, 2020, at 2:46 PM EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

As mentioned above, the next full Moon will occur on the morning of Halloween, Saturday, October 31, 2020, at 10:49 AM EDT. We currently divide the year into four seasons based upon the solstices and equinoxes, with winter beginning on the winter solstice in December. This approximates winter as the quarter of the year with the coldest temperatures. Much of pre-Christian northern Europe celebrated "cross-quarter days" halfway between the solstices and equinoxes, and divided the seasons on these days. Using this older definition, winter was the quarter of the year with the shortest daily periods of daylight, with autumn ending and winter beginning on Samhain, traditionally celebrated on October 31st or November 1st (the middle of our fall). Our Halloween customs are thought to have come from these earlier celebrations of the end of fall and start of winter.

On Sunday morning, November 1, 2020, at 2 AM EDT, we "fall back" to 1 AM EST, making the change to Standard Time. If you have something you would like to do for 2 hours, but you're only supposed to do it for an hour, do it from 1 to 2 AM on this morning...

Sometime between Friday, October 30, and Thursday, November 5, 2020, Near Earth Object (2018 VP1), between 2 and 4 meters (6 to 13 feet) in size will most likely pass the Earth somewhere between 0.02 and 10.0 lunar distances (nominally 1.1), traveling at 9.71 kilometers per second (21,720 miles per hour). Nominally the closest approach would be on Monday, November 2, 2020 at 6:33 AM EST, but this has 3 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes uncertainty due to the lack of observations on such a small object. This object could have a 0.41% or 1 in 240 chance of entering the Earth's atmosphere on November 2, most likely over the Pacific Ocean if it did. An object this size would break up harmlessly high above the surface with only small pieces falling as debris after the breakup. The mass of this object is estimated to be between 100 and 1,000 times less than the approximately 20 meter (66 foot) object that entered the Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013.

On Monday evening into Tuesday morning, November 2 to 3, 2020, the bright star Aldebaran will appear below the nearly full waning Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise in the east-northeast on Monday evening at 6:29 PM EST, Aldebaran at 6:55 PM, the Moon will reach its highest in the sky on Tuesday morning at 1:52 AM, and the Moon will be 40 degrees above the western horizon when morning twilight begins at 5:39 AM.

Sometime in the first part of November, 2020 (2020-Nov-05 22:04 UTC with 5 days, 18 hours, 57 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2010 JL88), between 12 and 26 meters (38 to 85 feet) across, will pass the Earth at between 0.5 and 48.4 lunar distances (nominally 10.4) traveling at 15.66 kilometers per second (35,040 miles per hour).

On Thursday evening into Friday morning, November 5 to 6, 2020, the bright star Pollux (the brighter of the twins in the constellation Gemini) will appear near the waning gibbous Moon (initially about 9 degrees to the left). For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise in the east-northeast Thursday night at 8:42 PM EST with Pollux about 9 degrees to the left. The Moon will reach its highest in the sky Friday morning at 4:25 AM and will be in the southwest with Pollux about 7 degrees above when morning twilight begins at 5:42 AM.

On Friday evening into Saturday morning, November 6 to 7, 2020, the waning gibbous Moon will appear to have shifted to the other side of the bright star Pollux. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise in the east-northeast at 9:40 AM EST with Pollux about 7 degrees above and the pair will appear to separate throughout the night. The Moon will reach its highest in the sky Saturday morning at 5:18 AM and morning twilight will begin at 5:43 AM.

Sunday morning, November 8, 2020, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 8:46 AM EST.

On Sunday night into Monday morning, November 8 to 9, 2020, the bright star Regulus will appear to the lower right of the waning crescent Moon. For the Washington, DC area the Moon will rise in the east-northeast at 11:50 PM EST with Regulus rising 30 minutes later on Monday morning at 12:20 AM. Morning twilight will begin at 5:45 AM, when the Moon will be about 62 degrees above the southeastern horizon.

On Tuesday morning, November 10, 2020, the planet Mercury will appear at its highest above the horizon at the time morning twilight begins. For the Washington, DC area, morning twilight will begin around 5:46 AM, when Mercury will appear about 7 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. The bright star Spica will appear to the upper right of Mercury, with the bright planet Venus appearing farther above the pair. Through a large enough telescope Mercury will appear half-lit and will reach its greatest angular separation from the Sun as seen from Earth around noon.

On Thursday morning, November 12, 2020, the waning crescent Moon, the bright planet Venus, the bright star Spica, and the planet Mercury will appear together in the east-southeast. At the time morning twilight begins (5:48 AM EST for the Washington, DC area), the Moon will appear at 25 degrees above the horizon, Venus at 18 degrees, Spica at 12 degrees, and Mercury at 7 degrees.

On Friday morning, November 13, 2020 (Friday the 13th), the waning crescent Moon will have shifted to form a quadrilateral with Venus, Spica, and Mercury. At the time morning twilight begins (5:49 AM EST for the Washington, DC area), look to the east-southeast to see Mercury at the bottom, the Moon above Mercury, Spica to the right of the Moon, and Venus at the top.

On Saturday morning, November 14, 2020, at 6:44 AM EST, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

Just after midnight on Sunday, November 15, 2020, at 12:07 AM EST, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from the Earth. Since this will be near when the Moon is closest to the Earth, this will be a "Supermoon" (although most of the public interest is in Supermoons we can see). The 5-day Hindu festival of lights, Diwali or Dipavali, is celebrated around the night of this new Moon, considered the darkest night of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. Dawali celebrates the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. This festival will run from November 12 through November 16, 2020.

The day of or the day after the New Moon marks the start of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. The tenth month of the Chinese calendar starts on Sunday, November 15, 2020 (at midnight in China's time zone, which is 13 hours ahead of EST). In the Islamic calendar the months traditionally start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon, although many Muslim communities now follow the Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia, which uses astronomical calculations to start months in a more predictable way. Using this calendar the fourth month of the year, Rabiʽ al-Thani, also known as Rabiʽ al-Akhir, will begin at sunset on Sunday, November 15, 2020. Sundown on Monday, November 16, 2020, will mark the start of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. Hanukkah will begin towards the end of Kislev.

On Monday morning, November 16, and again on Tuesday morning, November 17, 2020, the bright star Spica will appear about 4 degrees to the lower right of the bright planet Venus. The pair will appear about 16 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon when morning twilight begins (at around 5:51 AM EST for the Washington, DC area).

Tuesday morning, November 17, 2020, is the predicted peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower. Under ideal conditions this shower is expected to produce between 10 and 20 visible meteors per hour near its peak. Ideal conditions include a dark place far from any light sources, clear skies with no clouds or high hazes, a clear view of a large expanse of the sky, and plenty of uninterrupted darkness to allow your eyes to adapt. The best time to look should be well after midnight but before any sign of dawn (before about 5:21 AM EST for the Washington, DC area). Those of us living in urban and suburban environments surrounded by light sources will probably not have much luck seeing these meteors. This meteor shower is caused by dust and debris from the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle entering the Earth's atmosphere at 71 kilometers per second (159,000 miles per hour).

On Wednesday evening, November 18, 2020, the bright planet Jupiter will appear to the upper left of the waxing crescent Moon, with the planet Saturn appearing farther to the upper left. For the Washington, DC area the Moon will appear about 18 degrees above the south-southwester horizon as evening twilight ends at 5:53 PM EST. The Moon will set first in the west-southwest at 8:11 PM.

By Thursday evening, November 19, 2020, the waxing crescent Moon will have shifted to the left of Jupiter and Saturn, appearing 24 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon as evening twilight ends (at 5:52 PM EST for the Washington, DC area). Jupiter will set first in the west-southwest at 8:43 PM.

On Saturday, November 21, 2020, the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 11:45 PM EST.

Sometime around Monday, November 23, 2020 (2020-Nov-23 12:53 UTC with 1 day, 18 hours, 20 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2017 WJ16), between 37 and 82 meters (120 to 269 feet) across, will pass the Earth at between 4.1 and 6.1 lunar distances (nominally 4.9) traveling at 4.75 kilometers per second (10,630 miles per hour).

Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, November 25 to 26, 2020, the bright planet Mars will appear above the waxing gibbous Moon. The Moon will appear about 34 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon as evening twilight ends (5:50 PM EST for the Washington, DC area), the Moon will reach its highest in the sky at 8:57 PM, and Mars will set first in the west Thursday morning at 3:08 AM.

Sometime towards the end of November or start of December, 2020 (2020-Nov-26 04:41 UTC with 8 days, 1 hour, 42 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2018 RQ4), between 11 and 25 meters (36 to 81 feet) across, will pass the Earth at between 1.1 and 22.3 lunar distances (nominally 8.1) traveling at 7.44 kilometers per second (16,640 miles per hour).

Thursday morning, November 26, 2020, will be the last morning that the planet Mercury will be above the east-southeastern horizon when morning twilight begins for this apparition.

Thursday evening, November 26, 2020, at 7:29 PM EST, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

On Sunday evening into Monday morning, November 29 to 30, 2020, the bright star Aldebaran will appear near the full Moon. The full Moon after next will be Monday morning at 4:30 AM EST. Around this time the Moon will pass through the partial shadow of the Earth (called a penumbral lunar eclipse), but the slight dimming of the Moon will be hard to notice without instrumentation.

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