The first full moon of the year, Wolfs Moon, will take place this Friday, January 10 at 2:21 p.m. EST (1921 GMT), and will coincide with the first penumbral lunar eclipse of the decade when the Moon will be partially covered by our planet’s shadow.
The striking phenomenon, first in 2020, will be observed in most parts of the world, although people in the Americas will only enjoy seeing a bright full moon. The eclipse won’t be visible but the Moon is likely to appear slightly darker than usual.
During Friday’s eclipse, the moon will make its way through the subtle peripheral shadow of the Earth, called the penumbra.
The shadow will give the face of the moon a darker, more brown color for about 4 hours, starting at 12:07 p.m. EST (1707 GMT), with the maximum occurring at 2:10 p.m. EST (1910 GMT)
In the United States, the full Moon will occur during daylight hours when it will be located still beneath the horizon.
Since this eclipse will take place during the first full moon of the year, in January, it is called “Wolf’s full moon eclipse.”
This eclipse is only one of the six eclipses that will take place in 2020. Four eclipses in 2020 will be lunar eclipses while two will be solar eclipses.
Astronomers have revealed that all of the lunar eclipses in 2020 are penumbral eclipses which means they will be difficult to see. During all the lunar eclipses, the Moon will travel through our planet’s faint penumbra.
The penumbral eclipse of January 10 will feature the deepest eclipse of all four lunar eclipses of 2020.
According to space.com, a penumbral eclipse is very difficult o notices with the naked eye.
Nonetheless, observers may see the Moon turn from its noticeable white color to a slightly yellowish to brown color on a perfect, clear night. During the January 10 lunar eclipse, 89% of the moon’s face will be covered by the penumbra.
Given that this lunar eclipse coincides with the first full moon of the year in January, it is called “Wolf Moon Eclipse” or just Wolf Moon.
The reason for its name resides in the cold nights of the northern hemisphere at this time of year (boreal winter). The wolves generally howl at the moon in order to define territory, locate members of their pack, and gather for hunting sessions.
There are 12 Full Moons each year and every full moon has a unique name, first published in the 1930s by The Maine Farmer’s Almanac.
As explained by NASA’s Gordon Johnston:
“According to this almanac, the Algonquin tribes of what is now the northern and eastern United States named the Full Moon in January or the first Full Moon of winter the Wolf Moon, from the packs of wolves that howled hungrily outside the villages amid the cold and deep snows of winter.”
In addition to being called the Wolf Mon, January’s full moon is also dubbed cold moon, the old moon, as well as the spirit Moon, according to USA Today.