Don’t Miss the Next Full Moon: The Worm Moon (and, by Some Definitions, a Supermoon)


The Moon, or supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the U.S. Capitol, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Next Full Moon is the Worm, Crow, Crust, Sap, or Sugar Moon; the Pesach, Passover, or Paschal Moon; the Holi Festival Moon; Medin or Madin Poya; the Shab-e-Barat or Bara’at Night Moon; and (by some definitions) a Supermoon.

The next full Moon will be Sunday afternoon, March 28, 2021, appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 2:48 PM EDT. This will be on Monday morning from India’s timezone eastward to the International Date Line. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Saturday morning through Monday night into early Tuesday morning.

Moon Rises Behind the Spire of St. Dominic Church

The Moon, or supermoon, is seen as it rises behind the spire of St. Dominic Church, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Washington, DC. A supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

In the 1930s the Maine Farmer’s Almanac began publishing American Indian Moon names for each month of the year. According to this almanac, as the full Moon in March this is the Crow, Crust, Sap, Sugar, or Worm Moon. The more northern tribes of the northeastern United States knew this as the Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. Other northern names were the Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing by night, or the Sap (or Sugar) Moon as this is the time for tapping maple trees. The tribes more to the south called this the Worm Moon after the earthworm casts that appear as the ground thaws. It makes sense that only the southern tribes called this the Worm Moon. When glaciers covered the northern part of North America they wiped out the native earthworms. After these glaciers melted about 12,000 years ago the more northern forests grew back without earthworms. Earthworms in these areas now are mostly invasive species introduced from Europe and Asia.

In the Hebrew calendar 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 Nisan, which corresponds with Pesach or Passover. This year Pesach begins at sundown on March 27, and ends at nightfall on April 4, 2021.

In the western Christian ecclesiastical calendar this is the Paschal Moon, from which the date of Easter is calculated. Paschal is the Latinized version of Pesach. Generally, the Christian holiday of Easter, also called Pascha, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon of spring. However, there are differences between the times of these astronomical events and the different calendars used by the Eastern and Western churches. This is one of the years where it makes a difference. Western Christianity will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, April 4, 2021, the Sunday after this first full Moon of spring. Eastern Christianity will be celebrating the full Moon after next as the Paschal Moon and Eastern Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

Updating the tradition of naming Moons after prominent phenomena tied to the time of year, two years ago my friend Tom Van Wagner suggested naming this the Pothole Moon. Perhaps it is less driving due to the pandemic, but in my area, at least, I’ve not been running into as many potholes this year as in previous years…

As the full Moon in the Hindu month Phalguna, this Moon corresponds with the Holi festival, celebrating the victory of good over evil and the start of spring. Among other things, Holi includes a free-for-all game involving the spraying of colored powders and/or colored water on whomever wanders by. In 2021, Holika Dahan will be on March 28 and Holi on March 29.

Every full Moon is a holiday in Sri Lanka. This full Moon is Medin or Madin Poya, marking the Buddha’s first visit to his father after his enlightenment.

In the Chinese lunisolar calendar 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 second month of the Chinese calendar.

In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon shortly after the New Moon. This full Moon is near the middle of Sha’ban, the month before Ramadan and the eighth month of the calendar. Moslems celebrate the 15th day of Sha’ban as Shab-e-Barat or Bara’at Night. Shia Muslims also celebrate this as Mid-Sha’ban. This year Shab-e-Barat is expected to start at sundown on March 28 and end at sundown on March 29, 2021.

The term “supermoon” was coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth. Supermoons have become popular over the last few decades. Depending upon how you interpret this definition, in a typical year there can be 2 to 4 full supermoons in a row and 2 to 4 new supermoons in a row. Since we can’t see a new Moon (except where it eclipses the Sun), what catches the public’s attention are the full supermoons, as this is when the full Moon appears near its biggest and brightest for each year. Different publications use slightly different thresholds for deciding when a full Moon is close enough to the Earth to qualify as a supermoon. For 2021, some publications consider the four full Moons from March to June, some the three full Moons from April to June, and some only the two full Moons in April and May as supermoons. The full Moons in April and May are nearly tied as the closest full Moons of the year. The full Moon on May 26, 2021, will be slightly closer to the Earth than the full Moon on April 26, 2021, but only by a slim 0.04%!

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon. See if you notice more crows cawing, earthworm casts, or potholes, and celebrate the start of spring, perhaps with some colorful displays (although I don’t recommend spraying strangers with colors unless you are in an area where everyone is expecting it because of Holi).

Moon Supermoon

Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Supermoons of 2021 – Defining Supermoons

The term “supermoon” was coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth.

Supermoons have become popular over the last few decades. Depending upon how you interpret this definition, in a typical year there can be 2 to 4 full supermoons in a row and 2 to 4 new supermoons in a row.

Since we can’t see a new Moon (except where it eclipses the Sun), what catches the public’s attention are the full supermoons, as this is when the full Moon appears near its biggest and brightest for each year.

Different publications use slightly different thresholds for deciding when a full Moon is close enough to the Earth to qualify as a supermoon.

For 2021, some publications consider the four full Moons from March to June, some the three full Moons from April to June, and some only the two full Moons in April and May as supermoons.

The full Moons in April and May are nearly tied as the closest full Moons of the year. The full Moon on May 26, 2021, will be slightly closer to the Earth than the full Moon on April 26, 2021, but only by a slim 0.04%!

› More on Supermoons




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