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November's Beaver Full Moon 2020: See a lunar eclipse and a near-minimoon

November's full moon on Nov. 30 will undergo a penumbral lunar eclipse, two days after reaching aphelion, when the moon is farthest from Earth.  

The moon becomes officially full at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT) according to NASA's SkyCal site. For New York City observers, the moon will set about two and a half hours later at 7:07 a.m., and rise that evening at 4:48 p.m. local time. 

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the November full phase is called the Full Beaver Moon, as it is when beavers usually went into their lodges for winter. This beaver moon will undergo a penumbral lunar eclipse, which is when the moon enters the outer part of the Earth's shadow, called the penumbra. Penumbral lunar eclipses are usually harder to notice than the more dramatic total lunar eclipse, because the moon only gets slightly darker (many people might call it a yellowish-brown tint, but the exact hue depends a lot on weather conditions and one's own color perception). 

Related: Lunar eclipse 2020 guide: When, where & how to see them 

night sky november 2020 Full Beaver Moon and Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The moon will dip into Earth's outer shadow in a minor penumbral lunar eclipse on Nov. 29-30, 2020. (Image credit: )

An overview of the November 2020 lunar eclipse from eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Research Center.

An overview of the November 2020 lunar eclipse from eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Research Center. (Image credit: F. Espenak/NASA's GSFC)

This lunar eclipse will be visible from all of North and South America, the Pacific, and in Asia from the northern half of Japan into Siberia. In Europe it will only be visible in the British Isles, Sweden, Norway and Finland.  

The eclipse starts at 07:32 Universal Coordinated Time; this is based on the time zone for Greenwich, England. That means a London-based observer will see the eclipse start at 7:32 a.m., just before the moon sets at 7:37 a.m. (sunrise is not until 7:42 a.m.) In New York the moon touches the Earth's shadow at 2:32 a.m.; the moon will be about 49 degrees above the horizon and the shadow will touch the upper left of the moon's face. Maximum eclipse will be at 4:44 a.m. and the penumbral shadow will not completely cover the moon; from New York a section on the left will still be fully lit. The eclipse ends at 6:54 a.m. Eastern. 

This visibility guide from eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA shows the visibility region for the penumbral lunar eclipse of Nov. 29-30, 2020.

This visibility guide from eclipse expert Fred Espenak of NASA shows the visibility region for the penumbral lunar eclipse of Nov. 29-30, 2020. (Image credit: F. Espenak/NASA's GSFC)

All lunar eclipses are visible from anywhere on the night side of the Earth; the difference will be how close to moonrise and moonset the eclipse begins and ends. One's latitude will determine how high in the sky the moon appears. For example, an observer in Chicago will see the eclipse begin an hour earlier than in New York at 1:32 a.m. local time and the moon will be at a similar altitude as in New York. Maximum eclipse will be at 3:42 a.m. and the eclipse ends at 5:53 a.m. 

Meanwhile in Managua, which is in the same time zone, the moon will be 59 degrees above the horizon when the eclipse starts. The times for maximum eclipse and the eclipse end will be the same as in Chicago. 

Related: Best Night Sky Events of November 2020 (Stargazing Maps)

Getting into the Southern Hemisphere, the moon will appear closer to the horizon, as November is the austral spring and the plane of the moon's orbit appears lower in the sky at night. From Santiago, Chile, the eclipse begins at 4:32 a.m. when the moon is about 20 degrees above the western horizon; maximum eclipse occurs at 6:42 a.m. local time, but the moon will have already set by then — moonset is at 6:33 a.m. 

The eclipse occurs only two days after the moon reaches apogee, where it is at the furthest point in its orbit from the Earth. The moon is at an average distance of 238,000 miles (382,500 kilometers), but on November 26 it will be 252,208 miles (405,890 km) away at 7:29 p.m. Eastern Time. When apogee coincides with a full moon — this almost does, though no quite — it's called a "minimoon," as it appears ever-so-slightly smaller to the eye than it usually does. (It takes a keen-eyed and patient observer to spot the difference, though). 

The moon will be in the constellation Taurus, the bull, which contains enough bright stars that even a full moon can't wash them out completely (a challenge will be to spot the brightest star in Taurus, Aldebaran, which will be close enough that the lunar glare will be a factor). Just south and east of the moon will be Orion, and north of it will be Auriga, the Charioteer. Due east will be Gemini, the twins. 

 Visible Planets 

As the penumbral eclipse starts in New York, Mars will be setting, the planet being just a degree and a half above the western horizon; it will be visible earlier in the evening, as it crosses the meridian, the midpoint of the sky, at 8:16 p.m. local time according to calculations. 

Jupiter and Saturn, form a close pair and set at 7:50 p.m. and 8:02 p.m., respectively, on Nov. 29., so they will both have exited the stage by the time the lunar eclipse occurs. On the night of Nov. 30 the two planets set about three minutes earlier, at 7:47 p.m. and 7:50 p.m. Because in mid-northern latitudes the sun sets relatively early — for New Yorkers the sun sets at 4:29 p.m. on Nov. 30 — the two giant planets will be easy to see in the evenings, low in the southwestern sky. 

See the planets: Here's what's up in November's night sky

Venus, meanwhile, will still be a "morning star" in the constellation Libra, rising at 4:40 a.m. local time in New York on Nov. 30. Sunrise is not until 7 a.m. local time, and the planet will be at 23 degrees altitude by then. 

Venus is bright enough that it remains visible even as the sky becomes lighter, and a fun challenge is to see how long you can still spot it as sunrise approaches. Mercury, meanwhile, rises at 6:08 a.m. local time on Nov. 30 and will be about 9 degrees above the eastern horizon when the sun rises. It's harder to see than Venus, but with some patience and a flat horizon free of obstructions one can catch it. 

The November full moon has many names that reflect the environments and lives of local cultures. This lunation will be the twelfth of the year, and one of the names given by the Ojibwe people is Mnidoons Giizisoonhg or "Little Spirit Moon." 

The Cree people called it " Thithikopiwipisim" (Hoar Frost Moon) — understandable, since late November is when freezing temperatures in their traditional territory become more common. In the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit called the twelfth full moon "Shanáx Dís" (Unborn Seals are Getting Hair),  according to the "Tlingit Moon and Tide Teaching Resource" published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In China, the 12th lunation is called Làyuè, "Preserved Month" as that is when people traditionally started preserving foods for the Spring Festival holidays. The KhoiKhoi people in South Africa called the November full moon the Milk Moon, according to the Center for Astronomical Heritage, an organization that works to preserve local astronomical traditions. 

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Jesse Emspak
Jesse Emspak is a contributing writer for Live Science, and Toms Guide. He focuses on physics, human health and general science. Jesse has a Master of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester. Jesse spent years covering finance and cut his teeth at local newspapers, working local politics and police beats. Jesse likes to stay active and holds a third degree black belt in Karate, which just means he now knows how much he has to learn.
  • rod
    Good report and video :) I am observing and tracking asteroid 4 Vesta for some days this week near 6.5 apparent magnitude. Last night easy to see near border of Taurus/Cetus moving westward (retrograde) into Cetus. Binoculars show and my telescope views. The waxing gibbous Moon is getting brighter, 4 Vesta reaches opposition on the 12th, Full Moon period too. So far, I am still able to see 4 Vesta asteroid with brightening moon light nights. Viewing a Full Moon is not fun (as the report suggest) with telescopes - best viewed during other phases and with a good moon filter too. I especially enjoy viewing the Moon near First Quarter and Last Quarter phases. Very good terminator line relief and crater details.