A new year spectacle: What was so special about last night's Wolf Moon?

Full moons illuminate the sky every month - here's everything you need to know about last night's moon
A new year spectacle: What was so special about last night's Wolf Moon?

The first full moon of the year always came with a history of folklore. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

What is a Wolf Moon?

The first full moon in January has been referred to as the Wolf Moon for centuries. Its origin comes from Native Americans who often heard wolves howling during cold winter nights at this time of year, according to the Farmer's Almanac which is an annual American periodical that has been in continuous publication since 1818. It provides long-range weather forecasts, best days, full moon dates, astronomy and more. 

It was traditionally believed that wolves howled due to hunger during winter, but today we know there can be a number of reasons such as to locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, or even coordinate hunting.

The Maine Farmers' Almanac began publishing Native American names for full Moons in the 1930s. Over time, these names have become widely known and used. This isn't its only name though. According to Almanac, other names include Frost Exploding Moon (Cree), Freeze Up Moon (Algonquin), Severe Moon (Dakota), Hard Moon (Dakota), Canada Goose Moon (Tlingit), Great Moon (Cree), Greetings Moon (Western Abenaki) and Spirit Moon (Ojibwe).

What makes it unique?

A full moon occurs when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. As evening twilight ends around 5.14 pm, the brightest planet visible was Jupiter, appearing 20 degrees above the southwestern horizon, according to NASA. Saturn was also visible, appearing to the lower right above Jupiter at only two degrees above the horizon and setting 15 minutes later. During this time the bright star Pollux was also visible in the constellation Gemini.

The first full moon of the year always came with a history of folklore. For example, a bright first moon was said to promise rain and a bountiful harvest; a red-tinted Moon means a dry year, a growing Moon and a flowing tide are lucky times to marry and a halo around the Moon predicts wet or stormy weather. Astrology lovers also noted that the full moon in sentimental, heartfelt, water sign Cancer - will accelerate any feelings that have been surfacing for us lately.

When is the next full moon?

The next full moon, known as the Snow Moon, will appear on Wednesday February 16, 2022. The bright star Regulus will also be visible with the next full moon. However, to witness the Wolf Moon again we’re going to have to wait until January 6th, 2023. As NASA said, “stay warm, but when the sky is clear, take advantage of these early nightfalls and late sunrises to get out, look up, and share the wonders of the sky!”

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