Full moon names date back to Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes 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.
There were some variations in the moon names, but, in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names. Since the lunar ("synodic") month is roughly 29.5 days in length on average, the dates of the full moon shift from year to year.
Here is a listing of all of the full moon names as well as the dates and times for 2019. Unless otherwise noted, all times are for the Eastern Time Zone. [The Moon: 10 Surprising Lunar Facts]
Jan. 21: Full Wolf Moon
12:16 a.m. EST (0516 GMT)
Amid the frigid cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. The Full Wolf Moon was also known as the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule in other cultures. In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next moon. This year, there will be also be a total lunar eclipse that will be visible across the entire Western Hemisphere as well as Europe and a swath of western Africa. Totality will last 1 hour and 2 minutes.
Feb. 19: Full Snow Moon
10:54 a.m. EST (1554 GMT)
Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some tribes this was known as the Full Hunger Moon.The moon will also arrive at perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit, less than 7 hours earlier at 4 a.m. EST at a distance of 221,681 miles (356,761 kilometers) from Earth. So this is the largest full moon of 2019. (A full moon that takes place during perigee is sometimes known as a supermoon.) Very high ocean tides can be expected during the next two or three days, thanks to the coincidence of perigee with the full moon.
March 20: Full Worm Moon
9:43 p.m. EDT (0143 GMT on March 21)
In this month the ground softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. TheFull Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation.
April 19: Full Pink Moon
7:12 a.m. EDT (1112 GMT)
The grass pink or wild ground phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names were the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and — among coastal tribes — the Full Fish Moon, when the shad come upstream to spawn. In 2019, this is also the Paschal Full Moon; the first full moon of the spring season. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which indeed will be observed two days after the full moon on Sunday (April 21). This is an unusually late Easter, four days shy of the latest date that Easter can fall.
May 18: Full Flower Moon
5:11 p.m. EDT (2111 GMT)
Flowers are now abundant everywhere. This moon was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.
June 17: Full Strawberry Moon
4:34 a.m. EDT (0834 GMT)
Strawberry-picking season peaks during this month. Europeans called this the Rose Moon.
July 16: Full Buck Moon
5:38 p.m. EDT (2138 GMT)
This month is when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. The moon was also called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms now being most frequent. Sometimes it's also called the Full Hay Moon. There will also be a Partial Lunar Eclipse that will be visible primarily from most of Africa, Eastern Europe and western Asia. At maximum eclipse, the upper two-thirds of the moon's disk will be immersed in Earth's dark umbral shadow.
Aug. 15: Full Sturgeon Moon
8:29 a.m. EDT (1229 GMT)
This moon marks when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain are most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon — because when the moon rises it looks reddish through sultry haze — or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
Sept. 14: Full Harvest Moon
12:33 a.m. EDT (0433 GMT)
Traditionally, this designation goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal (fall) equinox. The Harvest Moon usually comes in September, but (on average) once or twice a decade it will fall in early October. At the peak of the harvest, farmers can work into the night by the light of this moon. Usually the moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later each night across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice — important Indian staples — are now ready for gathering. Since the moon arrives at apogee about 15 hours earlier, the farthest distance from Earth in its orbit, this will also be the smallest full moon of 2019. In terms of apparent size, it will appear 12.2 percent smaller than the full moon of Feb.19.
Oct. 13: Full Hunter's Moon
5:08 p.m. EDT (2108 GMT)
With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it's now time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble and can more easily see the fox, as well as other animals, which can be caught for a thanksgiving banquet after the harvest.
Nov. 12: Full Beaver Moon
8:34 a.m. EST (1334 GMT)
At this point in the year, it's time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. It's also called the Frosty Moon.
Dec. 12: Full Cold Moon
12:12 a.m. EST (0512 GMT)
On occasion, this moon was also called the Moon before Yule. December is also the month the winter cold fastens its grip. Sometimes this moon is referred to as the Full Long Nights Moon, which is an an appropriate name because the nights are now indeed long and the moon is above the horizon a long time. This particular full moon makes its highest arc across the sky because it's diametrically opposite to the low sun. The occurrence of this full moon on this particular date is rather poor timing for those who enjoy the annual performance of the Geminid meteor shower; this display will peak just two nights later and the brilliant light of the moon (which will be residing that same night in Gemini) will likely wash out all but the very brightest of these meteors.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer's Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon Fios1 News, based in Rye Brook, New York. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.