Dust off those binoculars and keep your eyes on the skies, as the final full moon of 2019 is fast approaching.
As one of 12 full moons to admire every year, December's moon was dubbed the Cold Moon by early Native Americans due to the return of dark nights and cold conditions.
But when and how can you see it? Here we've compiled a complete guide to our moon, Earth's only natural satellite and the largest and brightest object in our night sky which has enchanted and inspired mankind for centuries.
From supermoon to blue moon, here's everything explained in one place.
How often does a full moon occur?
A full moon occurs every 29.5 days and is when the Moon is completely illuminated by the Sun's rays. It occurs when Earth is directly aligned between the Sun and the Moon.
Why do full moons have names?
The early Native Americans didn't record time using months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Instead tribes gave each full moon a nickname to keep track of the seasons and lunar months.
Most of the names relate to an activity or an event that took place at the time in each location. However, it wasn't a uniform system and tribes tended to name and count moons differently. Some, for example, counted four seasons a year while others counted five. Others defined a year as 12 moons, while others said there were 13.
Colonial Americans adopted some of the moon names and applied them to their own calendar system which is why they're still in existence today, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
December: Cold Moon
Nights are long and dark and winter's grip tightens, hence this Moon's name. With Christmas just a few weeks away, it's also referred to as Moon before Yule and Long Nights Moon.
When? December 12
Past 2019 full moons
January: Wolf Moon
This moon was named because villagers used to hear packs of wolves howling in hunger around this time of the year. Its other name is the Old Moon.
The first full moon of 2019 was a spectacular sight, dubbed the ‘super blood wolf moon’. Occurring as the product of three different phenomena: it was a supermoon, a wolf moon and a blood moon. While it was said to be the UK’s last visible total lunar eclipse for 10 years, it was pictured across skies around the world with a deep orange hue.
In January 2018 there were two Wolf Moons, both of which were supermoons. When two moons occur in one month, the second is called a blue moon. While blue moons typically occur only once every two to three years, last year we were treated to two moons - the second appearing at the end of March.
When? January 21
February: Snow Moon
The Snow moon is named after the cold white stuff because historically it's always been the snowiest month in America. It's also traditionally referred to as the Hunger Moon, because hunting was very difficult in snowy conditions.
While February 2018 had no full moon at all, this year's Snow Moon was also the second of three supermoons to occur in 2019. Rising in the sky at 3.53pm, the moon made its closest approach to Earth all year and appeared visibly bigger and brighter to the naked eye.
When? February 19
March: Worm Moon
As temperatures warm, earthworm casts begin to appear and birds begin finding food. It's also known as Sap Moon, Crow Moon and Lenten Moon.
This year's Worm Moon was also the third super moon of 2019, appearing 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger to the human eye.
In the UK, the moon was at its brightest at 1.42am on Thursday, March 21, less than four hours after the Spring Equinox.
When? March 21
April: Pink Moon
April's full moon is known as the Pink Moon, but don't be fooled into thinking it will turn pink. It's actually named after pink wildflowers, which appear in the US and Canada in early spring.
This moon is also known as the Egg Moon, due to spring egg-laying season. Some coastal tribes referred to it as Fish Moon because it appeared at the same time as the shad swimming upstream.
This moon is important because it is used to fix the date of Easter, which is always the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This year, that moon appeared on Friday April 19, which meant Easter Sunday fell two days later, on Sunday April 21.
When? April 19
May: Flower Moon
Spring has officially sprung by the time May arrives, and flowers and colourful blooms dot the landscape.
This moon is also known as Corn Planting Moon, as crops are sown in time for harvest, or Bright Moon because this full moon is known to be one of the brightest. Some people refer to it as Milk Moon.
In 2019, May's Flower Moon was also a Blue Moon, the name given to a second full moon that occurs in a single calendar month.
When? May 18
June: Strawberry Moon
This moon is named after the beginning of the strawberry picking season. It's other names are Rose Moon, Hot Moon, or Hay Moon as hay is typically harvested around now.
This moon appears in the same month as the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (June 21) in which we can enjoy approximately 17 hours of daylight.
When? June 17
July: Thunder Moon
Named due to the prevalence of summer thunder storms. It's sometimes referred to as the Full Buck Moon because at this time of the year a buck's antlers are fully grown.
But this full moon was extra special this year because it fell on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. 50 years ago, on July 16 1969, the crew set off from Florida on their historic voyage to the Moon, which later saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to step on the lunar surface.
When? July 16
August: Sturgeon Moon
Tribes in North America typically caught Sturgeon during this month, but also it is when grain and corn were gathered so is sometimes referred to as Grain Moon.
When? August 15
September: Harvest Moon
The Harvest Moon is the name given to the first full moon that takes place closest to the Autumn equinox, which this year fell on September 14.
It was during September that most of the crops were harvested ahead of the autumn and this moon would give light to farmers so they could carry on working longer in the evening. Some tribes also called it the Barley Moon, the Full Corn Moon or Fruit Moon.
October: Hunter's Moon
As people planned ahead for the cold months ahead, the October moon came to signify the ideal time for hunting game, which were becoming fatter from eating falling grains. This moon is also known as the travel moon and the dying grass moon.
When? October 13
November: Frost Moon
The first of the winter frosts historically begin to take their toll around now and winter begins to bite, leading to this month's moon moniker. It is also known as the Beaver Moon.
When? November 12
Total lunar eclipses
Space fans will remember that a total lunar eclipse graced our skies on January 21. In total the phenomenon - which was also a full moon and a supermoon - lasted five hours, 11 minutes and 33 seconds, with its maximum totality peaking at 5.12am.
The celestial spectacle, otherwise known as a 'blood moon', occurs when the moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. At the distance of the moon this shadow appears like the bull’s eye at the centre of a dartboard.
The umbral shadow slowly creeps across the moon’s disc until it engulfs it completely. You might think the moon would disappear from view at this point but this is typically not the case. The Earth’s atmosphere acts like a lens, refracting or bending the Sun's red light to infill the otherwise dark umbra. This results in the moon's usual bright white hue transforming into a deep blood orange.
July 2018 saw the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting from 8.49pm to 10.13pm in London. Making the phenomenon even more spectacular, Mars was at its closest point to Earth since 2003, meaning the Red Planet was close to maximum brightness.
Once in a blue moon
Does this well-known phrase have anything to do with the moon? Well, yes it does. We use it to refer to something happening very rarely and a blue moon is a rare occurrence.
A monthly blue moon is the name given to a second full moon that occurs in a single calendar month and this typically occurs only once every two to three years.
A seasonal blue moon describes the third of four full moons to occur in an astronomical season. In 2019, May's Flower Moon was also a seasonal blue moon.
There's lots of other moons, too - how many do you know?
Full moon: We all know what these are. They come around every month and light up the sky at night.
Harvest moon: The full moon closest to the autumn equinox.
Black moon: Most experts agree that this refers to the second new moon in a calendar month. The last black moon took place on August 30, 2019, which was also a super new moon.
Blood moon: Also known as a supermoon lunar eclipse. It's when the shadow of Earth casts a reddish glow on the moon, the result of a rare combination of an eclipse with the closest full moon of the year. There was one in the UK in January 2019, but the next one won't be until 2029.
Strawberry moon: A rare event when there's a full moon on the same day as the summer solstice. It happened in June 2016 for the first time since 1967 when 17 hours of sunlight gave way to a bright moonlit sky. Despite the name, the moon does appear pink or red. The romantic label was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season.
What is a supermoon?
Ever looked up at the night sky to see a full moon so close you could almost touch it? Well you've probably spotted a supermoon.
The impressive sight happens when a full moon is at the point in its orbit that brings it closest to Earth. To us Earth-lings, it appears 30 per cent brighter and 14 per cent bigger to the naked eye.
Supermoon is not an astrological term though. It's scientific name is actually Perigee Full Moon, but supermoon is more catchy and is used by the media to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.
Astrologer Richard Nolle first came up with the term supermoon and he defined it as "… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit", according to earthsky.org.
How many supermoons are there in 2019?
Three full moon supermoons graced our skies in 2019, appearing on January 21, February 19 and March 21.
The first of these supermoons was a total lunar eclipse, with the totality lasting 1 hour, 1 minute and 58 seconds in the UK. However, the peak of the eclipse was at 5.12am, which meant stargazers had to get up early to catch it.
Three new moon supermoons also occurred on August 1, August 30 and September 28 this year. Unfortunately, stargazers were unable to see these lunar events as new moons are generally obscured by the light of the sun.
What do I look for?
Head outside at sunset when the moon is closest to the horizon and marvel at its size. As well as being closer and brighter, the moon (clouds permitting) should also look orange and red in colour.
Why? Well, as moonlight passes through the thicker section of the atmosphere, light particles at the red end of the spectrum don't scatter as easily as light at the blue end of the spectrum.
So when the moon looks red, you're just looking at red light that wasn't scattered. As the moon gets higher in the sky, it returns to its normal white/yellow colour.
Will the tides be larger?
Yes. When full or new moons are especially close to Earth, it leads to higher tides. Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignments, this affects the size of the tides.
Tell me more about the moon
- The moon is 4.6 billion years old and was formed between 30-50 million years after the solar system.
- It is smaller than Earth - about the same size as Pluto in fact.
- Its surface area is less than the surface area of Asia - about 14.6 million square miles according to space.com
- Gravity on the moon is only 1/6 of that found on Earth.
- The moon is not round, but is egg-shaped with the large end pointed towards Earth.
- It would take 135 days to drive by car to the moon at 70 mph (or nine years to walk).
- The moon has "moonquakes" caused by the gravitational pull of Earth.
- Experts believe the moon has a molten core, just like Earth.
How was the Moon formed?
Man on the Moon
Only 12 people have ever walked on the moon and they were all American men, including (most famously) Neil Armstrong who was the first in 1969 on the Apollo II mission.
The last time mankind sent someone to the moon was in 1972 when Gene Cernan visited on the Apollo 17 mission.
Although Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin was the first man to urinate there. While millions watched the moon landing on live television, Aldrin was forced to go in a tube fitted inside his space suit.
When the astronauts took off their helmets after their moonwalk, they noticed a strong smell, which Armstrong described as “wet ashes in a fireplace” and Aldrin as “spent gunpowder”. It was the smell of moon-dust brought in on their boots.
The mineral, armalcolite, discovered during the first moon landing and later found at various locations on Earth, was named after the three Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
An estimated 600 million people watched the Apollo 11 landing live on television, a world record until 750 million people watched the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
One of President Nixon’s speechwriters had prepared an address entitled: “In Event of Moon Disaster”. It began: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace.” If the launch from the Moon had failed, Houston was to close down communications and leave Armstrong and Aldrin to their death.