The Sound of Science - "What's With All These Moons?"

Mar 29, 2019

J: Hi, I'm Jeremy.

K: And I'm Kate.

J: We're here from NIU STEM Outreach to answer another one of your questions on the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Today's question comes from Caroline who asks, "Why are there so many different moons these days?"

J: Good question, Caroline. It does seem like every month I see something new in my social media about an upcoming special moon. Pink moons, blood moons, strawberry banana mango moons.

K: I think you might've made up that last one - but you're right. It does seem like there are a lot more special moons these days. What do all those different names actually mean?

NIU STEM Outreach

J: Well, to be honest Kate, not as much as you might think. The lunar cycle lasts about 29.5 days, meaning we get about one full moon a month. Different cultures have given each month's full moon special names based on animals, weather or other things. For example, January's full moon is sometimes called the Wolf Moon.

K: And March's will be the Worm Moon or Sap Moon.

J: These names don't actually refer to anything except the month that full moon occurs in. But there are a couple types of moons that do warrant a closer look.

K: One of those is a Blue Moon. Remember how we said the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days? That's a bit less than the average month. That means every so often we begin and end the same month with a full moon.  

J: A second full moon in any one month is commonly called a Blue Moon. Blue moons only occur about once every two and half years - Hence the saying "Once in a blue moon" to mean something that doesn't happen very often.

K: The other special type of full moon is a Super Moon. This is the only one that actually looks different from other full moons.

J: Due to the way the moon orbits the Earth, its distance from us changes. This variation can cause a change in how big and bright the moon appears from earth.

K: When we see a full moon near its perigee, or closest approach to earth, we call this a Super Moon. At its very closest approach, the full moon can appear up to 30 percent brighter than normal and be up to 15 percent bigger.

J: Great question, Caroline. Keep those questions coming to us at stemoutreach@niu.edu

K: This has been the Sound of Science on WNIJ, where you learn something new every day.