Full Moon 2020: NASA welcomes the beautiful August Sturgeon Moon tonight

The eighth Full Moon of the year is traditionally known as the Green Corn Moon or the Sturgeon Moon. In other parts of the world, this Moon is also known as the Grain Moon, the Red Moon or the Raksha Bandhan Moon. Here in the UK, the Moon will peak in brightness at about 4.58pm BST but will not be seen until later tonight.

The peak will occur when the Sun and the Moon are aligned across from one another, with the Earth right in between.

The alignment allows the Sun’s rays to fully illuminate the Moon’s Earth-facing side for a brief moment.

But the good news is the Moon always appears full for about three days centred on the peak.

Stargazers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Full Moon over the UK should look to the southeast horizon tonight from about 9.10pm BST, when viewed from London.

The Full Moon will glide across the skies until it sets on the west-southwest horizon tomorrow at about 5.53am BST.

But what is the story behind the Sturgeon Moon’s unusual name?

According to Gordon Johnston of NASA, the name is believed to have originated in Native American naming traditions.

He said: “The Maine Farmer’s Almanac first published ‘Indian’ names for the Full Moons in the 1930s, and over time these names have become widely known and used.”

This Full Moon corresponds with the end of the Esala Perahera festival

Gordon Johnston, NASA

According to this almanac, the Sturgeon Moon is the Full Moon in August and the second Full Moon of the summer.

During this time, Algonquin tribes in what is now the northeastern US named this lunar phase after the sturgeon fish caught in the five Great Lakes – Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Eerie.

This Moon is also sometimes known as the Red Moon due to the reddish haze it takes on during summer nights.

But August’s Moon is also linked to many cultural and religious practices, such as the Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan.

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According to Mr Johnston, the festival celebrates the bonds between brothers and sisters.

He said: “One of the traditions is for sisters of all ages to tie a rakhi – a cotton bracelet – around their brother’s wrist, receiving a gift from the brother in return, as a sign of the continuing bond between them.

“The term ‘Raksha Bandhan’ translates as “the bond of protection, obligation, or care.”

This Full Moon also corresponds with Nikini Poya, an important Buddhist holiday commemorating the very first Dhamma Sangayana or Buddhist council about 2,400 years ago.

Mr Johnston said: “In Kandy, Sri Lanka, this Full Moon corresponds with the end of the Esala Perahera festival, also known as the Festival of the Tooth, a two-week Buddhist festival held each year.”

August’s Full Moon also falls in the middle of the sixth month in the Chinese calendar.

The Moon also peaks near the end of the Islamic year, which is in the month of Hajj.

During this time, devout Muslims from around the globe will travel to the city of Mecca on a pilgrimage.

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