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The full moon, as observed from Earth.
Full moon is a lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. More precisely, a full moon occurs when the geocentric apparent (ecliptic) longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180 degrees; the Moon is then in opposition with the Sun. At this time, as seen by viewers on Earth, the hemisphere of the Moon that is facing the earth (the near side) is almost fully illuminated by the Sun and appears round. Only during a full moon is the opposite hemisphere of the Moon, which is not visible from Earth (the far side), completely unilluminated.

The time between similar lunar phases - the synodic month - is on average about 29.53 days, so that the full moon falls on either the 14th or 15th of the lunar month in those calendars that start the month on the new moon. In any event, as lunar months are counted in discrete numbers of days, lunar months are said to be either 29 or 30 days long.

Characteristics

A full moon is often thought of as an event of a full night's duration. This is somewhat misleading, as the Moon seen from Earth is continuously becoming larger or smaller (though much too slowly to notice with the naked eye). Its absolute maximum size occurs at the moment expansion has stopped, and when graphed, its tangent slope is zero. For any given location, about half of these absolute maximum full moons will be potentially visible, as the other half occur during the day, when the full moon is below the horizon. Many almanacs list full moons not just by date, but by their exact time as well (usually in UT). Typical monthly calendars which include phases of the moon may be off by one day if intended for use in a different time zone.

The date and time of a specific full moon (assuming a circular orbit) can be calculated from the equation:
D = 20.362954 + 29.5305888531 \times N + 102.19 \times 10^{-12} \times N^2
where D is the number of days since 1 January 2000 00:00:00 UTC, and N is an integer number of full moons, starting with 0 for the first full moon of the year 2000. The true time of a full moon may differ from this approximation by up to about 14.5 hours as a result of the non-circularity of the moon's orbit (see New moon and ). The age and apparent size of the full moon vary in a cycle of just under 14 synodic months, which has been referred to as a full moon cycle.

Full moons are generally a poor time to conduct astronomical observations, since the bright reflected sunlight from the moon overwhelms the dimmer light from stars.

On 12 December 2008 the full moon occurred closer to the Earth than it has done at any time for the past 15 years.

Folklore

Full Moons are traditionally associated with temporal insomnia, insanity (hence the terms lunacy and lunatic) and various "magical phenomena" such as lycanthropy. Psychologists, however, have found that there is no strong evidence for effects on human behavior around the time of a full moon. They find that studies are generally not consistent, with some showing a positive effect and others showing a negative effect. In one instance, the 23 December 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal published two studies on dog bite admission to hospitals in England and Australia. The study of the Bradford Royal Infirmarymarker found that dog bites were twice as common during a full moon, whereas the study conducted by the public hospitals in Australia found that they were less likely. However Dr Timo Partonen of the Finnish National Public Health Institute carried out a study of 1400 suicides and found that people were more likely to make an attempt on their life when there was a new moon.

Many neopagans hold a monthly ritual called an Esbat at each full moon, while some people practicing traditional Chinese religions prepare their ritual offerings to their ancestors and deities on every full and new moon.

Many Jewish holidays fall on full moon days.

Very often the Full Moon is also a reason to celebrate Full Moon parties in Asia as well as Europe.

Calendars

The Hindu, Thai, Hebrew, Islamic, Tibetan, Mayan, Neo-pagan, Germanic, Celtic, and the traditional Chinese calendars are all based on the phases of the Moon. None of these calendars, however, begin their months with the full moon. In the Chinese, Jewish, Thai and some Hindu calendars, the full moon always occurs in the middle of a month.

In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped on a full moon night.

In the Gregorian calendar, the date of Easter is the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon which occurs after the ecclesiastical vernal equinox. In this context, the date of the full moon (together with the date of the vernal equinox) is calculated not according to actual astronomical phenomena, but according to a calendrical approximation of these phenomena.

In the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the full moon of the eighth month, whereas the Lantern Festival falls on the first full moon of the year.

Full moon names

The full moon, as observed from Earth on a clear night.
It is traditional to assign special names to each full moon of the year, although the rule for determining which name will be assigned has changed over time (see article at blue moon). An ancient method of assigning names is based upon seasons and quarters of the year. For instance, the Egg Moon (the full moon before Easter) would be the first moon after March 21, and the Lenten Moon would be the last moon on or before March 21. Modern practice, however, is to assign the traditional names based on the Gregorian calendar month in which the full moon falls. This method frequently results in the same name as the older method would, and is far more convenient to use.

The following table gives the traditional English names for each month's full moon, the names given by Native Americans in the northern and eastern United States, other common names, and Hindu and Sinhala names. Note that purnima or pornima is Hindi for full moon, which has also become the Malay word for full moon purnama. Full moon days are sacred according to Buddhist tradition and called Poya in Sinhala, the dominant language of the Buddhist majority of Sri Lanka.

Full moon names
Month English names Native American names Other names used Hindu names Sinhala (Buddhist) names
January Old Moon Wolf Moon Moon After Yule, Ice Moon Paush Poornima Duruthu Poya
February Wolf Moon Snow Moon Hunger Moon, Storm Moon, Candles Moon Magh Poornima Navam Poya
March Lenten Moon Worm Moon Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Chaste Moon basanta (spring) purnima, dol purnima (holi) Medin Poya
April Egg Moon Pink Moon Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon, Waking Moon Hanuman Jayanti Bak Poya
May Milk Moon Flower Moon Corn Planting Moon, Corn Moon, Hare's Moon Buddha Poornima Vesak Poya
June Flower Moon Strawberry Moon Honey Moon, Rose Moon, Hot Moon, Planting Moon Wat Poornima Poson Poya
July Hay Moon Buck Moon Thunder Moon, Mead Moon Guru Poornima Esala Poya
August Grain Moon Sturgeon Moon Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, Lightning Moon, Dog Moon Narali Poornima, Raksha bandhan Nikini Poya
September Corn Moon Harvest Moon Corn Moon, Barley Moon Bhadrapad Poornima Binara Poya
October Harvest Moon Hunter's Moon Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Blood Moon Kojagiri or Sharad Poornima, lakshmi puja Vap Poya
November Hunter's Moon Beaver Moon Frost Moon, Snow Moon Kartik Poornima Il Poya
December Oak Moon Cold Moon Frost Moon, Long Night's Moon, Moon Before Yule Margashirsha Poornima Unduvap Poya


The blue moon

The term "blue moon" traditionally referred to an extra moon in a season: if a season had four full moons (rather than the more common three), then the third of the four moons was known as a blue moon. A season in this sense begins not with the months as in the table above, but with the solstices and equinoxes.

A mistaken definition, that the second full moon in a calendar month is known as a blue moon, became common in parts of the U.S. during the second half of the twentieth century due to a misinterpretation of the Maine Farmer's Almanac in the March 1946 Sky & Telescope magazine; this was corrected in 1999.

Since there are 12.37 full moons in a year, a "blue moon" must occur on the average every 2.7 years, by either definition.

See also



References

  1. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/09dec_fullmoon.htm
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/7779294.stm
  3. http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/12/fullest-moon-in.html
  4. Sky and Telescope "What's a blue moon?"


External links




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