November's full "Beaver Moon" will occur on Nov. 27 at 4:16 a.m. EST (0916 GMT), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Full moons are a consequence of the moon being on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, so the hour it happens depends on one's time zone. While the moon reaches full phase in the predawn hours on the East Coast of the United States, it will be morning in Paris (10:16 a.m. local time) and late afternoon in Hong Kong (5:16 p.m. local time).
Even though the moon is on the opposite side of the sun from Earth, it doesn't always pass through Earth's shadow because the moon's orbit is slightly inclined — about 5 degrees — to the plane of Earth's orbit. That means that it usually "misses" the shadow of the Earth. The moon is also tidally locked to Earth; which means we always see the same side of the moon. If one were standing on the moon, the Earth would look as though it was always in the same place in the sky, though the sun would still appear to move, if slowly. When the moon looks full from Earth, it would be noontime on the moon; because the moon takes about 28.5 days to make a circuit of the Earth, a day on the moon lasts about 14 days.
While the full moon is an easy target for observers with a pair of binoculars or a telescope, it is so bright that it can be hard to see details on the surface. Because it is locally noontime on the moon, there are few shadows, so a lot of contrast is lost. The moon is so bright that there are even "moon filters" for telescopes to help increase contrast and reduce glare (the light isn't dangerous to your eyes, but the glare makes it hard to see details). Often the best views are a few days after the full moon, when there are shadows that help define the topography.
In some places the full moon is in the sky at the same time as the sun is; in New York, for example, the full moon sets at 7:20 a.m. and the sun rises at 6:56 a.m. local time. In Miami, the full moon sets at 7:03 a.m. Eastern while sunrise is at 6:47 a.m. In Hong Kong, the moon rises at 5:26 p.m. local time and sunset is at 5:38 p.m. This is because the moon (from the point of view of an Earthbound observer) is close to the ecliptic, the path described by the sun across the sky over the course of the year — one can think of the ecliptic as the plane of Earth's orbit projected on the sky. The sun and moon are separated by 180 degrees along the ecliptic, and at certain times of the year, those two points are both visible at the same time from various locations on Earth's surface. Whether you see a full moon and sun in the sky together depends on one's latitude and season.
On the night of the November full moon, the sun sets in New York at 4:30 p.m. local time. The planet Mercury will be in the evening sky, low in the southwest. By 5:00 p.m. the sun will be 6 degrees below the horizon, marking the end of civil twilight; this is often when streetlights start to light up. Mercury will only be 4 degrees high by then, a challenging observing target under the best of conditions; the planet sets at 5:35 p.m. The observing gets somewhat easier as one moves southward; in Miami, sunset is at 5:29 p.m., and Mercury sets at 6:43 p.m. By 6:00 p.m., the planet is seven and a half degrees above the horizon and the sky is just getting dark enough to spot it. From San Juan, Puerto Rico, sunset happens at 5:46 p.m. and Mercury is 15 degrees high; by about 6:15 p.m. the planet is about 9 degrees high and it doesn't set until 7:03 p.m. local time.
Nearer the equator, Mercury is still higher; in Quito, sunset is at 6:05 p.m. on Nov. 27 and Mercury is about 18 degrees high in the southwest, Mercury sets at 7:31 p.m. and by about 6:30 p.m. it is still 12 degrees high in a sky that is becoming relatively dark; the sun will have just passed 6 degrees below the horizon and civil twilight is just ending.
In the Southern Hemisphere days are longer as we get into the late austral autumn, and sunsets are late. In Buenos Aires, for example, sunset is at 7:47 p.m. local time, but Mercury is 18 degrees high in the west-southwest and by the end of civil twilight Mercury is still 12 degrees high, a much easier observing target than in New York or Chicago. Mercury sets in Buenos Aires at 9:28 p.m.
Jupiter and Saturn
From mid-northern latitudes, by 6 p.m. on Nov. 27, Jupiter and Saturn will both be visible; Jupiter is the brighter of the two. If one looks at the moon and turns to the right (eastwards) one will see Jupiter just south of due east and above the moon, about 32 degrees high. Turning further to the right one will see Saturn, only a bit west of due south. Saturn is the first to set at 11:03 p.m., while Jupiter sets at 4:37 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 28.
In the Southern Hemisphere both planets will be higher in the sky; in Buenos Aires, by 8:30 p.m. Jupiter, which rises at 5:21 p.m. local time, is already 32 degrees high in the northeast and it reaches 42 degrees high when it transits at 10:49 p.m. Saturn, meanwhile, is a full 57 degrees above the horizon in the west-northwest.
As one gets into the wee hours of the morning, Venus rises at 3:15 a.m. EST on Nov. 28, in New York, while the full moon will be about 53 degrees high almost due west. Venus is bright enough that even as sunrise nears it is still visible in the eastern sky. Venus is in the constellation Virgo, and just to the right and below it one can see Spica, the brightest star in that constellation. In the Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, Venus will look as though it is below and to the left of Spica; for example in Buenos Aires, where Venus rises at about 3:30 a.m. local time.
By late November the Northern Hemisphere winter skies are prominent, and most of the more famous constellations are visible almost all night. By 7 p.m. local time, looking east left of the full moon, one will see Capella, the brightest star in Auriga the Charioteer. On the other side of the moon to the right is Aldebaran, the alpha star of Taurus, the Bull. By 8 p.m. Orion, recognizable by the three stars of his belt, is above the horizon. As Orion rises one can name the belt stars by the order in which they become visible — the easternmost is Mintaka, the middle star is Alnilam, and the westernmost is Alnitak. Betelgeuse marks Orion's left shoulder (from the point of view of an observer) and Rigel is his right foot. By 9:30 p.m. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, has risen and to the left of Sirius another bright star, Procyon, is visible — the two stars are the brightest in their respective constellations. Sirius is in Canis Major, the Big Dog, and Procyon is in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. Also in the eastern sky, one can see Gemini, the Twins, and the two bright stars that are their heads, Castor and Pollux. Castor is the one to the right (east).
In mid-southern latitudes, by 8:30 p.m. one can see Rigel in the east, and the three stars of Orion's belt below it. To the right of Orion (southwards), Canopus is rising; it is about 24 degrees above the southeastern horizon at the latitude of Buenos Aires. Canopus is the brightest star in Carina, the Ship's Keel. The Keel is fully above the horizon an hour later. Looking above Canopus, one can see Achernar, the end of Eridanus, the River. Achernar is high in the sky; by 9:30 p.m. it is about 66 degrees high. Looking to the right of Achernar one can spot Fomalhaut, in Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish.
Beaver Moon and other November moon names
While Americans (specifically those in the U.S. and Canada) call the November full moon the Beaver Moon, it's worth noting that such "traditional" names are a combination of European settler cultures and the Native peoples they came into contact with. Not every culture among Native Americans, would use the same names. For example, the Anishinaabe people call the November lunation Mshkawji Giizis, or "Freezing Moon." Similarly, the Cree people called it Kaskatinowipisim or "Freeze up Moon." Both the Cree and Anishinaabe nations' traditional territories are in the Great Lakes region, where, traditionally, October and November were when freezing temperatures would begin, especially at night. Meanwhile, the Cherokee called the 11th lunation the Harvest Moon. In the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit called the 11th full moon Cha'aaw Kungáay, which means "bears hibernate," according to the "Tlingit Moon and Tide Teaching Resource" published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Other cultures attach different meanings to the full moon. The traditional Chinese calendar is lunisolar — based on both lunar and solar cycles — and the November full moon occurs towards the end of the 9th month known as Júyuè, or "Chrysanthemum Month" as that is when those particular flowers tend to bloom.
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.
If you hope to snap a photo of the full moon, our guide on how to photograph the moon can help you make the most of the event. If you need imaging equipment, our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography have recommendations to make sure you're ready for the next skywatching target.
Editor's note: If you snap a great photo of the Beaver Moon or any other night sky sight you'd like to share with Space.com and our news partners for a story or image gallery, send images and comments to email@example.com.
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Jesse Emspak is a freelance journalist who has contributed to several publications, including Space.com, Scientific American, New Scientist, Smithsonian.com and Undark. He focuses on physics and cool technologies but has been known to write about the odder stories of human health and science as it relates to culture. 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 fourth degree black belt in Karate, which just means he now knows how much he has to learn and the importance of good teaching.
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.Reply