Our natural satellite in space is going red, white and blue in 2021.
On Thursday, January 28, 2021 the world will witness the rise of the full “Wolf Moon,” a rare near-global name for a global event. It will be best viewed at moonrise where you are as it appears in the east cloaked in dramatic orange hues.
The “Wolf Moon” will be the first of 12 full Moons in 2021. Seems obvious? It’s not—there were 13 full Moons in 2020 because our solar year is around 365 days while our lunar year, at around 354 days, is about 11 to 12 days shorter (that discrepancy is called an epact, calendar fans!)
Within those 12 full Moons, however, are some real treats. From three supermoons and a “Blue Moon” to the first total lunar eclipse “Blood Moon” to be visible from North America for a few years.
In lots of ways it’s going to be the Moon that brings the best sky-watching experiences in 2021 after 2020’s dramatic “Christmas Star” or “great conjunction” of planets just before Christmas and summer 2020’s rare bright Comet NEOWISE.
Here’s exactly what our satellite is going to be up to in 2021, month-by-month:
January 2021’s ‘Wolf Moon’
When: Thursday, January 28, 2021
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January’s full Moon, the “Wolf Moon,” will be best seen at moonrise. It will appear as an orange orb and swap to pale yellow as it rises, before becoming too bright and white to look at comfortably. The full “Wolf Moon” will be in the constellation of Cancer, the crab.
February 2021’s ‘Snow Moon’
When: Saturday, February 27, 2021
The final full Moon of winter, the “Hunger Moon,” “Storm Moon” and “Snow Moon” will be the final full Moon of the astronomical season of winter, which ends on the date of the Spring equinox—March 21, 2021. From Europe and the east coast of North America that means dusk on February 27 is best while on the west coast the previous night, February 26, will provide the very best views.
March 2021’s ‘Worm Moon’
When: Sunday, March 28, 2021
Rising a week after the Spring or vernal equinox, the “Worm Moon” will be the first full Moon of spring. Given that it occurs juts a few days short of the Moon’s perigee, you could argue that it’s a “supermoon,” though 2021 will have plenty of those …
April 2021’s ‘Super Pink Moon’
When: Monday, April 27, 2021
A supermoon is a full Moon that coincides (or thereabouts) with the Moon’s perigee—the closest point in the Moon’s monthly orbit that it comes to Earth. It’s a result of the Moon’s orbit being slightly elliptical, which make the full Moon sometimes looks slightly larger. In 2021 that will happen three times, with the “Super Pink Moon” the first, at 6% larger than average.
May 2021’s ‘Super Flower Blood Moon’
When: Wednesday, May 26, 2021
So here’s easily the the best astronomical event of all of 2021 for anyone in North America. Occurring as close to the the Moon’s perigee in May makes the “Super Flower Moon” the biggest and brightest full Moon of 2021, but that is not what makes this a very special full Moon. For those in Australia, parts of the western U.S., western South America and Southeast Asia, a “supermoon” will move into Earth’s dark central umbral shadow to cause a total lunar eclipse for 15 minutes, briefly turning the lunar surface a reddish-copper color.
It also sets-up a rather special and rare alignment two weeks later …
June 2021’s ‘Ring of Fire’ solar eclipse
When: Thursday, June 10, 2021
New Moons are invisible to us since they occur when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun. However, when they pass precisely between them to create a syzygy then it gets exciting. On June 10, 2021 most of the U.S. and Canada will see a huge partial solar eclipse before breakfast on this day, but for those that travel to certain far-flung locations the prize is a spectacular “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse lasting 3 minutes and 33 seconds. That will only be viewable from far north Ontario, Canada. Since it occurs at sunrise in Canada, a scenic flight above the clouds might be the best option.
June 2021’s ‘Super Strawberry Moon’
When: Thursday, June 24, 2021
The third and final “supermoon” of the year is the “Super Strawberry Moon,” which occurs a few days after the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice. It’s therefore the first full Moon of summer—and the lowest-hanging full Moon of the year. All of that combined will make this a fabulous full Moon to watch rise.
July 2021’s ‘Buck Moon’
When: Saturday, July 24, 2021
Also known as the “Grain Moon” in the U.K as well as the :Thunder Moon” and “Hay Moon,” this full Moon will be the second of summer, but otherwise has little else to make it standout from the rest.
August 2021’s ‘Blue Sturgeon Moon’
When: Sunday, August 22, 2021
After 202o’s rare “Blue Moon” on Halloween comes another in 2021, but this time it’s a “pure” form of the phenomenon. August’s “Sturgeon Moon” will be the third full Moon during a summer that contains four full Moons—that’s the official astronomical definition of a “Blue Moon.” So it’s merely a calendar quirk … it will not look blue! However, the “Blue Sturgeon Moon” will sit in the sky a mere 3º from a very bright planet Jupiter.
September 2021’s ‘Harvest Moon’
When: Tuesday, September 20, 2021
Is this the most famous full Moon of the year? The fourth full Moon of summer in the northern hemisphere—and in days gone by a help to farmers to get crops in late into the night—the “Harvest Moon” will occur just a couple of days shy of the equinox on September 22, 2021. Traditionally the beginning of “Northern Lights season” around the Arctic Circle, aurora-hunters would be wise to delay any trips north until late September when the “Harvest Moon” is well out of the way.
October 2021’s ‘Hunter’s Moon’
When: Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Another famously-named full Moon, 2021’s “Hunter’s Moon” will be the first in the seasonal of fall or autumn.
November 2021’s ‘Half-Blood Beaver Moon’
When: Thursday, November 18, 2021
Tonight, North and South America, Australia, parts of Europe and Asia will experience a “Half-Blood Beaver Moon Eclipse” partial lunar eclipse. A particularly deep partial lunar eclipse lasting 3 hours and 28 minutes, this event will see 97% of the Moon enter Earth’s shadow in space. It will also be a “micro” Moon—the opposite to a “supermoon”—so will appear ever so slightly smaller in the sky than the average full Moon.
December 2021’s Total Solar Eclipse
When: Saturday, December 4, 2021
Sure, the Sun gets all the glory here, but it’s surely the Moon doing all the work. Every 18 years, 11 days and 8 hours a total solar eclipse is visible from Antarctica, though few people have ever seen one. On this day parts of the White Continent and the Weddell Sea will be thrown under the Moon’s shadow for about two minutes, but it should be more easily accessible than most eclipses in this part of the world. Happening close to where cruise ships sail, expect eclipse-chasers to take once-in-a-lifetime trips into the path of totality to view from close to the South Orkney islands, after sailing from Chile and Argentina.
December 2021’s ‘Cold Christmas Baby Moon’
When: Sunday, December 19, 2021
The 12th and final full Moon of 2021 is also the third and final of fall, arriving just two days before the solstice. It’s also called the “Long Nights Moon” and the “Moon Before Yule.” It will also be the smallest of 2021—being a “micro” full Moon because it occurs while the Moon is at apogee—but also the highest in the sky.
If nothing else, 2021 will prove once again that no two full Moons are ever the same.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.