The full moon of August is shining bright for skywatchers around the world tonight (Aug. 18). In fact, some viewers got a preview of this so-called Full Sturgeon Moon in a webcast last night.
August's Full Sturgeon Moon occured at 5:26 a.m. EDT (0926 GMT) on today, but to the casual observer, the moon will appear full the day before (tonight) and after the lunar event. To celebrate the moon milestone, the online Slooh Community Observatory hosted a free live webcast on the full moon in partnership with "The Old Farmer's Almanac," and you can see it on Slooh.com.
A full moon occurs each month when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with the Earth in between the two. During this time, the Earth-facing side of the moon is completely illuminated by the sun, giving observers on the planet a stunningly bright lunar sight, weather permitting.
August's full moon is known as the Full Sturgeon Moon (among other lunar names) by some Native American tribes because it marks the time when its namesake fish can be most readily caught.
During Slooh's lunar webcast, host Paul Cox discussed the August full moon's many names with Janice Stillman, editor of "The Old Farmer's Almanac."
"Some Native American tribes called the August Moon the 'Sturgeon Moon,' 'Full Green Corn Moon' and the 'Blueberry Moon,'" Slooh representatives wrote in an announcement. "Janice will discuss where these unique names came from, and share some of the legend and lore surrounding those names and traditions."
Cox was also joined in the webcast by Slooh astronomer Bob Berman (who is also astronomy editor for "The Old Farmer's Almanac") "to discuss what causes the full moon, point out some of its interesting features and preview the upcoming series of supermoons which start their arrival this fall," Slooh representatives explained.
August's full moon is also known as the Harvest to the Chinese and the Dispute Moon in Celtic culture. And in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is currently winter, August's full moon has been known as the Snow Moon, Storm Moon, Hunger Moon and Wolf Moon, according to Earthsky.org.
A so-called supermoon occurs when the full moon of a given month coincides with the moon's arrival at perigee, the point in its orbit when it is closest to Earth. During these times, the moon can appear up to 14 percent larger than it appears when it is at its farthest point from Earth. Supermoons, or perigee full moons, will occur on Oct. 16, Nov. 14 and Dec. 14.
During some full moons, the moon aligns directly behind the Earth with respect to the sun, creating a lunar eclipse as it passes through the Earth's shadow. Because the moon's orbit is tilted, this lunar alignment does not occur every month. The next such eclipse will be a minor penumbral lunar eclipse and will occur on Sept. 16.
Editor's note: If you snap an awesome photo of the moon that you'd like to share with Space.com and our news partners for a potential story or gallery, send images and comments in to managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.