This week brings with it November’s full moon, colloquially known as the Beaver Moon.
It also goes by the name ‘Frost Moon’ – as you’d expect with the weather starting to get a bit chillier this time of year.
The Beaver Moon will be visible tonight, November 18 – but will actually reach its peak at 8.57am tomorrow (November 19) morning.
Therefore, the best time to see it will be in the very early hours of Friday morning.
This year, the Beaver Moon will also coincide with a partial lunar eclipse. In fact, it’ll be the longest partial lunar eclipse of the century.
Unfortunately, the UK will miss the peak of the eclipse and it’ll only be visible to those in North and South America, as well as parts of Asia.
But not to worry, you can still enjoy the sight of the full moon tonight and for the next couple of nights.
If you want to catch a glimpse of it for yourself, the process couldn’t be simpler.
Just wrap up warm, head outside after nightfall and look up.
Why is it called the Beaver Moon?
Full moons are often revered in Native American culture and each one was given a unique name – which we still use today.
The Algonquin Native American tribes and the American colonists called the full moon in November the Beaver Moon as this was the time they would be setting up beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.
It’s come to be known as the Frost Moon as well because frost begins to form each night at this time of year.
How does a moon phase work?
The moon travels once around the Earth every 27.3 days, and it takes about 27 days for the moon to rotate on its axis.
The new moon signals that the moon is between the Earth and the sun, the side of the sun that is facing towards Earth receives no direct sunlight, it is only lit by the sunlight reflected from Earth.
The moon moves and we gradually see more of the moon illuminated by direct sunlight. A week after the new moon is the first quarter and the moon will be half-illuminated from our point of view.
From then on more and more of the sun becomes illuminated, when the moon has moved 180 degrees from its new moon position, the earth, sun and moon form a line.
The moon’s disk is then as close as it can be to being fully illuminated by the sun and this is the full moon. After that, the full moon moves to the third quarter position and the sun’s light is now shining on the other half of the visible face of the moon.
As less and less of the moon is illuminated it moves into the next phase when it will start at the new moon position. Since the moon’s orbit is not exactly in the same plane as Earth’s orbit around the sun they are rarely perfectly aligned, when the moon does pass right in front of the sun we get an eclipse.
What is a lunar eclipse?
Lunar eclipses happen when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, making the earth’s shadow eclipse the moon. In the case of a partial eclipse, only most of the sun’s light is covered by the earth and results in a dark, rusty red moon.
This reddening of the moon happens when light from the sun, despite being directly blocked by Earth’s shadow, bends around our planet and travels through our atmosphere to reach the moon.
Earth’s atmosphere filters out shorter, bluer wavelengths of light and allows only the red and orange wavelengths through, making the moon appear red.
In the UK, the lunar eclipse will begin just over an hour before moonset when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow in space with the moon about 10° above the northwestern horizon.
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