Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse, Two Weeks Till The Sun’s Turn!

The moon in partial eclipse rises over the Coliseum in Rome at 2 p.m. CDT this afternoon. During a partial eclipse, the moon clips Earth’s shadow because it’s slightly outside the exact Sun-Earth-moon line up. Credit: Gianluca Masi

Tonight’s the Full Sturgeon Moon, named for the fish that American Indians of the Great Lakes netted plenty of every August. A lunar eclipse always occurs two weeks before or after a solar eclipse. In other words — tonight! But it won’t be visible anywhere in the Americas or Canada. Europe, Asia Africa and Australia will see about a quarter of the full moon covered by Earth’s shadow at maximum.

I should say, it won’t be directly visible, but Italian astrophysicist Gianluca Masi will live stream the event from Rome starting at 1:45 p.m. CDT (2:45 p.m. Eastern, 12:45 p.m. Mountain, 11:45 p.m. Pacific) on his Virtual Telescope website. Check it out. And if plan to watch tonight’s moonrise, click here to find the time when it will rise at your location.

This view shows the sky tonight during twilight. The Full Sturgeon Moon rises in Capricornus well to the east of Sagittarius. Each month, the full moon moves about one zodiac constellation to the east (left) to compensate for the sun’s apparent motion to the east at the same rate of one constellation a month. The moon has to “move over” so to speak, so that it’s opposite the sun, the position it must occupy to be in full moon phase. Created with Stellarium

At least it’s a little bit of compensation for the wonderful total solar eclipse coming to the western hemisphere in two weeks. The moon will rise around sunset this evening in the constellation Capricornus the Sea-Goat and make a big orange face at anyone who happens (or plans) to see it. Full moons are now on their way up into the sky, climbing higher each month as the sun rides the downside of the roller coaster toward the the constellation Sagittarius, a.k.a. the Teapot.

In June and July, the full moon — always directly opposite the sun — shone low in Scorpius and Sagittarius, while the sun stood highest in the sky in Taurus and Gemini. Now that the sun has slid south into Cancer, the full moon position has slide one constellation over to the east and north. If you’re out late tonight, you’ll notice that it stands higher in the south than in June or July. Just one part of the celestial cycle that repeats every year much like the sturgeon harvest so long ago.