April 17, 2024

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Moon Worm AKA Death Moon

The next full moon has many names including Crow, Crust, Sap, Sugar, Worm or Death Moon. The indigenous tribes of South America called it the worm moon because an earthworm would appear when the earth thawed at this time of year.

The next full moon is the crow, shell, sap, sugar, or worm moon; the fasting, chaste, or death moon, the full moon on Purim; Full moon on Holi. Magha Puja and Madian Poya; Mid-Shaban and Fossil Moon.

The next full moon will be on Tuesday morning, March 7, 2023, and will appear opposite the Sun in Earth’s longitude at 7:40 AM.[{” attribute=””>EST. This will be on Wednesday morning from Kamchatka and Fiji Time eastward to the International Date Line. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Sunday evening through Wednesday morning (and possibly early Wednesday evening).

The Maine Farmers’ Almanac began publishing Native American names for full moons in the 1930s and these names are now widely known and used. According to this almanac, as the full moon in March the tribes of the northeastern United States called this the Crow, Crust, Sap, Sugar, or Worm Moon. The more northern tribes of the northeastern United States knew this as the Crow Moon, with the cawing of crows signaling the end of winter. Other northern names were the Crust Moon, because the snow cover became crusted from thawing by day and freezing by night, or the Sap (or Sugar) Moon as this was the time for tapping maple trees. The more southern tribes called this the Worm Moon after the earthworm casts that appeared as the ground thawed. 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. Most of the earthworms in these areas are invasive species introduced from Europe and Asia.

Full Moon Canyon Wall

A full moon rises behind the ancient cliff dwellings at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Credit: NPS

A European name for this full moon is the Lenten Moon, as this corresponds with Lent, the traditional period of fasting that precedes Easter. Other names are the Chaste Moon or the Death Moon, related to the fasting of Lent and traditions from when the start of spring was the end of the old year and start of the new.

This full moon corresponds with Purim, which is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar (or on the 15th in Jerusalem and ancient walled cities) in the Hebrew calendar. In 2023, Purim will be from sunset on Monday, March 6 to nightfall on Tuesday, March 7. This holiday marks the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated by exchanging gifts of food and drink, feasting, and donating to charity.

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. This two-day long festival is also known as the Festival of Love, Festival of Colors, or the Festival of Spring. Holi begins with a bonfire the evening before the day of the full moon, continues on the day of the full moon with a free-for-all game involving the spraying of colored powders and/or colored water on whomever wanders by, and ends with evening visits with friends and family.

For some Buddhist areas this full moon corresponds with Māgha Pūjā (while other areas celebrated this with the full moon in February). Māgha Pūjā celebrates a gathering of the Buddha with 1,250 of his first disciples, which, according to tradition, preceded the custom of periodic recitation of discipline by monks. On the day, Buddhists celebrate the creation of an ideal and exemplary community, which is why it is sometimes called Saṅgha Day, Saṅgha referring to the Buddhist community. Some authors referred to this day as the Buddhist All Saints Day.

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.

This full moon is near the middle of Sha’ban, the eighth lunar month in the Islamic lunar calendar and the month before Ramadan. 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.

Many lunar and lunisolar calendars start the months on the new Moon with the full moon in the middle of the month. Lunisolar calendars sometimes add or repeat a month to keep the lunar months aligned with the solar seasons. This full moon is in the middle of the first of two second months in the Chinese calendar.

Continuing the tradition of naming moons after prominent phenomena tied to the time of year, a few years ago my friend Tom Van Wagner suggested naming this the Pothole Moon. It may be a case of confirmation bias, but whether in my car or on my bicycle I’ve noticed more potholes lately.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full moon. Consider exchanging gifts of food and drink; donating to charity; and watching out for crows, worms, potholes, and friends and neighbors wanting to spray you with bright colors.

As for other celestial events between now and the full moon after next (with specific times and angles based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC):

As winter ends and spring begins, the daily periods of sunlight continue to lengthen, changing at their fastest around the equinox on March 20. On Tuesday, March 7, 2023 (the day of the full moon), morning twilight will begin at 5:35 AM EST, sunrise will be at 6:32 AM, solar noon will be at 12:19:12 PM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 45.95 degrees, sunset will be at 6:07 PM, and evening twilight will end at 7:04 PM. For much of the USA Daylight Saving Time starts on the second Sunday in March. On the day before this change, Saturday, March 11, morning twilight will begin at 5:28 AM EST, sunrise will be at 6:26 AM, sunset will be at 6:11 PM, and evening twilight will end at 7:08 PM. On the first day of Daylight Savings Time, Sunday, March 12, morning twilight will begin at 6:27 AM EDT, sunrise will be at 7:24 AM, sunset will be at 7:12 PM, and evening twilight will end at 8:09 PM. By Thursday, April 6 (the day of the full moon after next), morning twilight will begin at 5:46 AM, sunrise will be at 6:45 AM, solar noon will be at 1:10:37 PM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 57.67 degrees, sunset will be at 7:36 PM, and evening twilight will end at 8:36 PM.

Evening Sky Highlights

On the evening of Tuesday, March 7, 2023 (the day of the full moon), as evening twilight ends (at 7:04 PM EST), the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will dominate the western sky. The brightest will be Venus (as the evening star) at 19 degrees above the western horizon. Jupiter (second brightest) will be 6 degrees below Venus. The planet Mars (third brightest) will be close to overhead at 75 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon. The rising full moon will be 7 degrees above the eastern horizon. The bright star appearing closest to overhead will be Capella at 80 degrees above the northwestern horizon. Although we see Capella as a single star (the 6th brightest in our night sky), it is actually four stars (two pairs of stars orbiting each other). Capella is 43 light-years from us. Also high in the sky will be the constellation Orion and the band of bright stars from the local arm of our home galaxy, including the brightest star in our night sky, Sirius, at 33 degrees above the south-southeastern horizon.

As this lunar cycle progresses, Jupiter, Mars, and the background of stars will appear to shift westward each evening (as the Earth moves around the Sun), while bright Venus will move slowly the other direction. Starting March 29 the planet Mercury will begin appearing above the west-northwestern horizon as evening twilight ends, joining Venus in shifting higher each evening. The waxing Moon will appear near Jupiter on March 22, Venus on March 23 and 24, the Pleiades star cluster on March 25, Mars on March 27 and 28, Pollux on March 29, and Regulus on April 1.

By the evening of Wednesday, April 5, 2023 (the start of the night of the full moon after next), as evening twilight ends (at 8:34 PM EDT), the rising full moon will be 14 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. Three of the five visible planets will be in the sky, with the brightest being Venus (as the evening star) at 24 degrees above the western horizon, Mercury (second brightest) at 6 degrees above the west-northwestern horizon, and Mars (third brightest) at 62 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. The bright star appearing nearest to overhead will be Pollux (the brighter of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini) at 77 degrees above the southwestern horizon. Pollux is an orange tinted star about 34 light-years from Earth. It is not quite twice the mass of the Sun but about 9 times the diameter and 33 times the brightness. Also spread across the southwestern sky will be the constellation Orion and the band of bright stars from the local arm of our home galaxy, including the brightest star in our night sky, Sirius, at 30 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon.

Morning Sky Highlights

On the morning of Tuesday, March 7, 2023 (the day of the full moon), as morning twilight begins (at 5:35 AM EST), the setting full moon will be 14 degrees above the western horizon. The bright star closest to overhead will be Arcturus at 56 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. Arcturus is the 4th brightest star in our night sky and is 36.7 light years from us. While it has about the same mass as our Sun, it is 2.6 billion years older and has used up its core hydrogen, becoming a red giant 25 times the size and 170 times the brightness of the Sun.

As this lunar cycle progresses the background of stars will shift westward each morning. The waning Moon will appear near the bright star Spica on March 10 and Antares on March 14. March 19 will be the first morning the planet Saturn will be above the horizon as twilight begins, with the waning crescent Moon appearing near Saturn.

By the morning of Thursday, April 6, 2023 (the day of the full moon after next), as morning twilight begins (at 5:46 AM EDT), the setting full moon will be 13 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. The only planet visible will be Saturn at 7 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. The bright star closest to overhead will be Vega at 78 degrees above the eastern horizon. Vega is one of the three bright stars in the Summer Triangle along with Deneb, and Altair. Vega is the 5th brightest star in our night sky, about 25 light-years from Earth, has twice the mass of our Sun, and shines 40 times brighter than the Sun.

Detailed Daily Guide

Here for your reference is a day-by-day listing of celestial events between now and the full moon after next. The times and angles are based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., so some of these details may differ for your location (I use parentheses to indicate specific times that might be different for you).

Wednesday evening, March 1, 2023, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will appear just one-half degree apart. They will be 17 degrees above the western horizon as evening twilight ends (at 6:58 PM EST) and will set about 1.5 hours later (at 8:31 PM).

Thursday evening into Friday morning, March 2 to 3, 2023, the bright star Pollux (the brighter of the twins in the constellation Gemini) will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. Pollux will be 2 degrees to the left as evening twilight ends (at 6:59 PM EST). The Moon will reach its highest in the sky about 2 hours later (at 9:11 PM) with Pollux above the Moon. Pollux will be 5 degrees to the right of the Moon as the pair sets on the northwestern horizon 9 hours after that (at 5:57 AM).

Friday afternoon, March 3, 2023, at 1:01 PM EST, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

On Saturday, March 4, 2023, don’t forget to “march forth!”

Sunday night into Monday morning, March 5 to 6, 2023, the bright star Regulus will appear to the lower right of the waxing gibbous Moon. Regulus will be 4.5 degrees to the right as evening twilight ends (at 7:02 PM EST). The Moon will reach its highest in the sky 4.5 hours later (at 11:30 PM) with Regulus 4 degrees below. Morning twilight will begin 6 hours after that (at 5:36 AM) with Regulus 5 degrees below.

Monday morning, March 6, 2023, will be the first morning that the planet Saturn will appear above the east-southeastern horizon 30 minutes before sunrise (an approximation of the earliest it might start being visible in the glow of dawn). Saturn will rise (at 6:01 AM EST) about 32 minutes before sunrise (at 6:33 AM).

As mentioned above, the peak of the next full moon will be on Tuesday morning, March 7, 2023, at 7:40 AM EST. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from Sunday evening through Wednesday morning (and possibly early Wednesday evening).

On Thursday night into Friday morning, March 9 to 10, 2023, the bright star Spica will appear near the waning gibbous Moon. When Spica rises above the east-southeastern horizon on Friday night (at 8:58 PM EST) it will be 6 degrees to the lower right of the Moon. The Moon will reach its highest in the sky for the night a little more than four hours later on Friday morning (at 2:17 AM) with Spica 4 degrees to the lower left. The pair will be 3 degrees apart as morning twilight begins (at 5:30 AM).

On Saturday, March 11, 2023, the last day of standard time, morning twilight will begin at 5:28 AM EST, sunrise will be at 6:26 AM, sunset will be at 6:11 PM, and evening twilight will end at 7:08 PM.

On Sunday morning, March 12, 2023, don’t forget to “spring forward” as we switch to daylight savings time! If you’re writing a novel and need something to occur at an unreal time, consider between 2:00 and 2:59 AM on March 12, 2023, as this won’t exist for much of the U.S.. On Sunday, morning twilight will begin at 6:27 AM EDT, sunrise will be at 7:24 AM, sunset will be at 7:12 PM, and evening twilight will end at 8:09 PM.

On Tuesday morning, March 14, 2023, the bright star Antares will appear near the waning half Moon. As the Moon rises above the southeastern horizon (at 1:56 AM EDT) Antares will be 3.5 degrees to the upper right. By the time morning twilight begins (at 6:24 AM) Antares will be 5 degrees to the right of the Moon.

Tuesday evening, March 14, 2023, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 10:08 PM EDT.

On Friday, March 17, 2023, the planet Mercury will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth, called superior conjunction. Mercury will be shifting from the morning sky to the evening sky and will begin emerging from the glow of the dusk on the western horizon in late March.

Sunday morning, March 19, 2023, you may be able to see the thin, waning crescent Moon near the planet Saturn. This will be the first morning that Saturn will be above the east-southeastern horizon as morning twilight begins. Saturn will rise (at 6:14 AM EDT) just a few minutes before morning twilight begins. The thin, waning crescent Moon will rise about 9 minutes after Saturn (at 6:23 AM), appearing 6 degrees to the lower right.

Sunday morning, March 19, 2023, at 11:13 AM EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

Monday evening, March 20, 2023, at 5:24 PM EDT, will be the vernal equinox, the astronomical end of winter and start of spring.

Tuesday afternoon, March 21, 2023, at 1:23 PM EDT, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from the Earth.

The day of or the day after the New Moon marks the start of the new month for many lunar and lunisolar calendars. Lunisolar calendars use the lunar cycles for months but occasionally add a “leap” month to keep the months tied to the solar seasons. This year the Chinese calendar repeats the second month of the year. The second second month of the Chinese year of the Rabbit starts on March 22, 2023. Sundown on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, marks the start of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. Pesach or Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan.

In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon. Many Muslim communities follow the Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia, which uses astronomical calculations to start the months in a more predictable way (intended for civil and not religious purposes). Because of Ramadan’s religious significance, it is one of 4 months in the Islamic year where the start of the month is updated in the Umm al-Qura Calendar based upon the actual sighting of the crescent Moon. This calendar predicts the holy month of Ramadan will start with sunset on Wednesday evening, March 22, 2023, but the actual start may be adjusted based on observations of the crescent Moon. Ramadan is honored as the month in which the Quran was revealed. Observing this annual month of charitable acts, prayer, and fasting from dawn to sunset is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Wednesday evening, March 22, 2023, you might be able to see the planet Jupiter 1.5 degrees to the lower right of the thin, waxing crescent Moon. To see them you will need a clear view towards the western horizon as the sky darkens with dusk. As evening twilight ends (at 8:20 PM EDT) Jupiter will be 2 degrees and the Moon 3 degrees above the horizon. Jupiter will set first about 13 minutes later (at 8:33 PM) followed by the Moon (at 8:41 PM).

Thursday evening, March 23, 2023, the thin waxing crescent Moon will appear about 6 degrees below the bright planet Venus. As evening twilight ends (at 8:21 PM EDT) the Moon will be at 16 degrees above the western horizon with Venus at 22 degrees. The Moon will set first a half-hour later (at 9:52 PM). The pair will appear at their closest Friday morning when they are visible from the other side of our planet.

Friday evening, March 24, 2023, will be the first evening that the planet Mercury will appear above the western horizon 30 minutes after sunset (an approximation of the earliest it might start being visible in the glow of dusk). Mercury will set (at 8 PM EDT) about 36 minutes after sunset.

Friday evening, March 24, 2023, the waxing crescent Moon will have shifted to 6 degrees above the bright planet Venus. As evening twilight ends (at 8:22 PM EDT) Venus will be at 22 degrees above the western horizon with the Moon at 28 degrees. Venus will set first two hours later (at 10:22 PM).

Saturday evening, March 25, 2023, the Pleiades star cluster will appear about 2 degrees to the upper right of the waxing crescent Moon.

On Monday night into early Tuesday morning, March 27 to 28, 2023, the planet Mars will appear to the upper left of the waxing crescent Moon. Mars will be 7 degrees to the upper left as evening twilight ends (at 8:25 PM EDT), with the Moon at 62 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon. They will shift closer together as night progresses and will be 4 degrees apart by the time the Moon sets on the northwestern horizon on Tuesday morning (at 2:16 AM). The pair will appear at their closest later in the morning when they are visible from the other side of our planet.

On Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, March 28 to 29, 2023, the half Moon will have shifted to the other side of Mars. Mars will appear 6 degrees below the Moon as evening twilight ends (at 8:26 PM EDT). They will shift apart as the night progresses. The Moon will reach its first quarter at 10:32 PM. The pair will be almost 8 degrees apart by the time Mars sets on the northwestern horizon on Wednesday morning (at 2:25 AM).

Wednesday evening, March 29, 2023, will be the first evening that the planet Mercury will be above the west-northwestern horizon as evening twilight ends. Mercury joins Venus in shifting higher each evening.

Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, March 29 to 30, 2023, the bright star Pollux (the brighter of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini) will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. Pollux will be 5 degrees to the upper left of the Moon as evening twilight ends (at 8:27 PM EDT). Pollux will be less than 3 degrees above the Moon by the time of moonset on the northwestern horizon Thursday morning (at 3:55 AM).

Friday morning, March 31, 2023, at 7:18 AM EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

Saturday night into Sunday morning, April 1 to 2, 2023, the bright star Regulus will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. Regulus will be 6.5 degrees below the Moon as evening twilight ends (at 8:30 PM EDT) and will be 6 degrees to the lower left as the Moon reaches its highest in the sky for the night 2 hours later (at 10:26 PM). Regulus will be less than 4 degrees to the lower left of the Moon when Regulus sets below the west-northwestern horizon on Sunday morning (at 5:18 AM) about a half-hour before morning twilight begins.

The full moon after next will be shortly after midnight on Thursday morning, April 6, 2023, at 12:35 AM EDT. The bright star Spica will be about 8 degrees to the lower left. The Moon will appear full for three days around this time, from Tuesday evening to Friday morning.

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