A wolf, sturgeon or beaver? Here’s what goes into all those moon names

A month is approximately 29.5 days; it’s the time to complete one cycle of phases from one full moon to the next full moon.

However, a lunar cycle is slightly shorter (called the sidereal month). Because it’s briefer, about every 2.7 years, we happen to get two full moons or two new moons in one calendar month. A blue moon is the second moon of the month.

In January 2018, we experienced two super moon occurrences. The first one, nicknamed a “wolf moon” happened New Year’s night, followed by another super moon Jan. 31 — a rare red and blue moon combination, thanks to a partial lunar eclipse. A red, blood or copper moon is the color of the moon during a lunar eclipse.

What is a super moon? Not only is the Earth’s orbit around the sun an oval, but also the moon’s orbit around the Earth. The moon is about 30,000 miles closer to Earth at perigee than apogee, when it’s farther away. Thus, when the full moon or a new moon coincides with perigee, it’s called a super moon. A full super moon appears larger and brighter than usual.

On July 31, a black super new moon (the second new moon of the month) occurred, but you couldn’t see it. It’s one of the few moons that matches its name.

All these different names of moons sparked my curiosity, how many names are there?

Well according to the Farmer’s Almanac, each full moon of the month has its own nickname. Here are the names for the rest of 2019:

The August full moon is called a sturgeon moon, named for the vast number of lake sturgeon where the Algonquin, the Indigenous people of southern Quebec and eastern Ontario, fished. This year, maybe it should be called the Perseid blocking moon, and here is why:

As travelers on planet Earth, we orbit the sun at about 67,000 mph. At this point in our annual journey, our world is blasting through the stream of debris that lies along the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which circles the sun about every 133 years. The meteor showers take the name Perseids because of their apparent origin in the constellation Perseus. The Perseids are one of the most dependable and brightest of the annual meteor showers.

At its peak, in mid-August, that number can increase to nearly 200 per hour. The Earth will pass through the most substantial part of the comet’s debris field on the night of Aug. 12-13. By the time it starts to get dark, the sturgeon moon will rise at around 8 p.m. and obscure the night sky with moonlight.

The next full moon of the year that falls closest to the fall equinox (first day of fall) in late September is called the harvest moon. About every three years, it occurs in early October, but most of the time it’s September. The September full moon is also called corn moon and October the hunter’s moon

The beaver moon occurs in November because these large, hairy rodents are most active preparing for winter. By coincidence, it’s typically the last full moon before the winter solstice (first day of winter).

December is the cold moon; last December, it occurred at the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

Climate change presentation

I’ll be giving a presentation at 4 p.m. Thursday about climate change, called “The Seven Deadly Sins of Climate Change,” on the expected effects on our local weather, seawater temperatures and waves along the Central Coast. The talk will be held at the Cambria Public Library, 1043 Main St.

For more information, please visit or call 805-772-6394.

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