The Sky Tonight Update: Full Sturgeon Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year.

There are other names associated with the August full moon.  Flying Up Moon is a Cree term describing the time when young birds are finally ready to take the leap and learn to fly. 

Corn Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe), Harvest Moon (Dakota), and Ricing Moon (Anishinaabe) signify that this is the time to gather maturing crops. Along the same vein, the Assiniboine people named this period Black Cherries Moon, referring to when chokecherries become ripe.

The Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest traditionally called this time of the season the Mountain Shadows Moon.

This is also the last of three supermoons for 2022.  Generally speaking, a supermoon is a full moon that appears larger than a typical full moon due to it being closer to Earth.  However, there’s a bit more to it than that! In fact, there are a couple definitions of “supermoon” out there. Let’s go through the two most popular ones, which we’ll refer to as the “broad” definition and the “strict” definition:

Broad Definition: A supermoon is a new or full moon that occurs when the Moon is near perigee, meaning the point in the Moon’s orbit where it is closest to Earth. By this definition, there can be several supermoons in a year. This term “supermoon” was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and specifies that the Moon must be within 90% of perigee.

Strict Definition: A supermoon is the single closest new moon and full moon of the year. By this definition, there can be only two supermoons each year, i.e. a full moon supermoon and new moon supermoon.

In popular usage, most folks go by the broad definition, since it’s much more exciting to be able to talk about multiple supermoons instead of just one or two.  Plus, “supermoon” tends to refer only to full moons, rather than both full and new moons.  This makes sense, given that new moons are essentially invisible from Earth.

Another measure that’s used to determine if a full moon is a supermoon is its physical distance from Earth. The exact distance cutoff varies, but we generally adhere to the idea that a full moon occurring at a distance closer than 224,000 miles is considered a supermoon.

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