Why tonight's supermoon is called a 'Full Buck Moon'

A supermoon, called a 'Full Buck Moon,' will light up the sky this weekend. The name dates back to when Native Americans kept track of seasons by giving names to recurring full moons.

Gene Blevins/REUTERS
A full moon, known as "super moon", sets towards the western skies of Las Vegas, Nevada early Saturday morning. The astronomical event occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit, making it appear much larger and brighter than usual.

If skies are clear in your part of the world tonight, you’ll be able to see something called a “Full Buck Moon.”

That’s a full moon rising and setting at the time of year when bucks – male deer – typically begin to grow their new antlers, starting with velvety bumps on their foreheads.

It’s the third of five “supermoons” in 2014 – the two new moons of January, and the full moons of July, August, and September. Astronomers and astrologers define a supermoon as a new or full moon which occurs when the moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit – the moon’s perigee. (earthsky.org)

“Full moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States,” explains SPACE.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao. “Those tribes of a few hundred years ago kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”

The full moon names and dates for 2014 include: Full Wolf Moon Jan. 15, Full Snow Moon Feb. 14, Full Worm Moon Mar. 16, Full Pink Moon Apr. 15, Full Flower Moon May 14, Full Strawberry Moon June 13, Full Buck Moon July 12, Full Sturgeon Moon Aug. 10, Full Harvest Moon Sept. 8, Full Hunters’ Moon Oct. 8, Full Beaver Moon Nov. 6, and Full Cold Moon Dec. 6.

July’s full moon was also called “Thunder Moon” because it occurred at the time of year when thunderstorms are frequent.

“Time is of the essence with this event, because the moon won't be in the sky for long each night,” writes Sean Breslin for The Weather Channel. “The Buck Moon will peak in the southern sky about 1 a.m. each night this weekend and will set less than 10 hours after it rises.”

“If you live along an ocean coastline, watch for high tides caused by these full moons,” notes earthsky.org, “Will these high tides cause flooding? Probably not, unless a strong weather system accompanies the perigean spring tide. Still, keep an eye on the weather, because storms do have a large potential to accentuate perigean spring tides.”

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