Look for the Full Sturgeon Moon overhead the evening of Aug. 7. In addition, if you're in Africa, Asia or Australia you'll see a partial lunar eclipse — as the moon passes through the Earth's shadow on its way to eclipsing the sun on Aug. 21 for viewers in the U.S.
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.
A lunar eclipse, on the other hand, occurs two to four times per year, when the moon passes through some portion of the Earth's shadow. Lunar and solar eclipses happen in pairs, with the lunar eclipse happening within two weeks of a solar eclipse. The Aug. 7 lunar is associated with the Aug. 21 solar eclipse — similarly, in 2019, a partial solar eclipse is paired with a total lunar eclipse. Lunar eclipses are easier to see than solar eclipses because they are visible from anywhere on Earth where it is nighttime and the moon has risen. And because the Earth's shadow is considerably larger than the moon as seen from Earth, the eclipses last longer. [The Moon: 10 Surprising Lunar Facts]
In the continental U.S. and Alaska, however, this lunar eclipse will not be visible. For the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, the moon sets the morning of Aug. 7 at 5:45 a.m. The moon will reach full phase at 2:10 p.m. and will not rise until 8:05 p.m. It will then set at 6:44 a.m. the next day (Aug. 8). The moon will reach an altitude of 34.4 degrees when it crosses the local meridian at 1:22 a.m. on Aug. 8.
The lunar eclipse starts at 15:50 UT (which is GMT without daylight savings), when the outer, lighter part of its Earth's shadow, called the penumbra, contacts the moon on its southwestern side. At 1722 UT, it touches the umbra, the dark part of the shadow. By 1820 UT, the moon will reach greatest eclipse, with about 25 percent of its angular diameter covered; the total time in the umbra will be about 1 hour and 55 minutes. At 19:18 UT, it will emerge from the umbra, and at 20:50 it will come out of the penumbral shadow.
That means the partial eclipse starts at 11:50 a.m. in New York, when the moon has already set. The only place in the Americas that will catch any of the eclipse is in far-eastern Brazil; if you live in Fortaleza or Recife you'll catch the last few minutes of the penumbral shadow on the moon when it rises at 5:40 p.m. (Fortaleza) and 5:30 p.m. (Recife) local time.
One U.S. state will catch the very beginning of the eclipse: Hawaii. In Honolulu, the moon sets at 6:06 a.m.; the moon will enter the penumbra at 5:50 a.m. Observers in Hawaii won't get to see the contact with the umbra, though, as that won't happen until 7:22 a.m. local time. [Lunar Eclipse 2017 Guide: When, Where & How to See It]
As one goes east from New York the situation improves; Europeans will get a bit of the tail end of the eclipse. As the moon becomes full for Londoners (which will be 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 7), it will still be below the horizon and will not rise until 8:29 p.m. At that point the moon will be in the penumbra, and its last contact is at 9:50 p.m. (Moonset is at 6:11 a.m. on Aug. 8).
For those in Paris, the moonrise is at 9:11 p.m. (the full moon is at 8:10 p.m.) and last contact with the umbra will be only 8 minutes later, at 9:18 p.m. To see the first contact with the umbra after moonrise, though, you'll have to be at least as far east as Istanbul, where the moon rises at 8:03 p.m. local time, and the moon enters the umbra at 8:22 p.m. Full moon occurs at 9:10, in the middle of the eclipse.
Observers in Africa, Asia and Australia will see the partial eclipse in its entirety. The central part of the eclipse zone, where the moon is at the meridian when the eclipse occurs, will be in central Asia and India.
If you happen to be in New Delhi, moonrise is at 6:52 p.m. and moonset is at 6:04 a.m. on Aug. 8. The moon becomes full at 11:40 p.m. Meanwhile, the (penumbral) eclipse starts at 9:20 p.m. and at 12:27 a.m. (Aug. 8) it will be about 45 degrees above the horizon, well placed for viewing. Maximum eclipse will be at 11:50 p.m. local time, and the moon emerges from the umbra after midnight at 12:48 a.m.
Most Australians will also get to see the whole eclipse. The eastern parts of Queensland and New South Wales will see it close to when the moon sets. In Brisbane, for example, the moon will enter the umbra at 3:22 a.m. on Aug. 8 and exit at 5:18 a.m. Moonset is at 6:29 a.m. The moon reaches full phase at 4:10 a.m.
Speaking of Australia, many indigenous people there, while lacking the evocative moon names for months, had a number of traditions surrounding eclipses, said Duane Hamacher, an astronomer at Monash University. In a 2011 study, he wrote that the Lardil people, of Mornington island, saw eclipses as symbolic of gluttony, because the moon was a greedy man who would get fat from gorging himself (hence the growth from crescent to full); so an eclipse was a symbolic death. Some groups saw eclipses as omens of sickness or death to relatives who were on a journey. Unlike Western culture, which sees the moon as female, indigenous Australians often saw the moon as a male figure.
The August full moon, according to the Farmer's Almanac, is called the full Sturgeon Moon because sturgeon are more easily caught in August and early September. Sturgeon are native to both Europe and the Americas; the name likely came from both colonists and Algonquin-speaking people in northeastern North America. In the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit called it the "berries ripe on mountain" (Sha-ha-yi), while the Haida called it the "salmon moon" (Chíin Kungáay).
The Māori of New Zealand described the lunar months in August as Here-turi-kōkā: "The scorching effect of fire is seen on the knees of man," reflecting the fact that in New Zealand, August is one of the colder months of the year. The day of the full moon was called Rākau-nui, according to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
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