If you venture outside after lunch this Thanksgiving Day to grab some fresh air, look east. You may just see a magical moonrise as the Beaver Moon makes a festive appearance.
Why is November's full moon called the Beaver Moon
Astronomers don't give Full Moons names, but over the years they have acquired nicknames by various cultures. The term Beaver Moon comes from Native Americans and colonial settlers, with some sources claiming it's because November was when traps were set, and others because beavers are at their most active before winter sets in. November's Full Moon has also been called Frosty Moon, Hunter's Moon and Oak Moon. Space.com reports that the Ojibwe people called November's full moon Little Spirit Moon, while the Tlingit people called it the Scraping Moon to mark the time when bears prepare their dens.
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When is the Beaver Moon
The exact moment of full moon is 12:39 a.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 23 and 9:39 p.m. PST on Thursday, Nov. 22. At that moment, the moon will be 100% illuminated by the sun, something that isn't always visible from the U.S. However, looking at the Beaver Moon at the precise time is not always easy. If the night sky is clear, it will be just too bright to look at.
When to watch the Beaver Moon
Although you can watch the full moon when it is 100% lit and high in the sky, it's far better to observe our satellite as it appears low on the horizon at moonrise. That takes place to the east at 4:36 p.m. EST in New York and 4:50 p.m. PST in Los Angeles on Nov. 22.
How to observe the Beaver Moon
At dusk on Nov. 22, position yourself somewhere with a good view of the eastern horizon and, if it's clear, you will see a pale orange moon appear. As it rises it will gradually increase in brightness and turn yellowish. As it's just rising, it can look huge, especially if you see it between two buildings. It's an illusion. The human brain usually sees the moon as larger when it's positioned lower down in the sky.
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The first 15 minutes or so of a moonrise is the best time to study the entirety of the moon through binoculars. As it rises higher in the sky, it will become white, and very, very bright. Since a full moon always rises as the sun sets, and sets just as the sun rises the next morning, the Beaver Moon will be is visible all night long. It's a great night for a moonlit walk or hike.
How to find stars around the Beaver Moon
If you gaze at the Beaver Moon rising in the east at dusk the following day, Nov. 23, you may notice a bright star become visible just to the right-hand side of the moon. That's Aldebaran, the 13th brightest star in the night sky and the eye of the bull in the constellation of Taurus. Look closely at Aldebaran, preferably with binoculars, and you'll see that it's an orange star. It's just 65 light years distant, and easily bright enough to be visible during a Full Moon. Just above the rising moon will be the sparkling star cluster of the Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters.
When is the next full moon
The next full moon — the Full Cold Moon, Full Long Nights Moon or Moon Before Yule — will occur on Dec. 22, though the exact moment of 100% illumination is during daylight hours as seen from North America. So it will be best viewed at dusk on either Friday, Dec. 21 (also the date of the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter) or Saturday, Dec. 22. It also occurs during the Ursids Meteor Shower, which may be visible around the Big Dipper, though it will be a struggle to see with a Full Moon in the night sky.