The January 7 Full Moon Isn’t “Wolf,” It’s Just a Full Moon

A “full Wolf Moon” would be announced on January 7, 2023. However, it is useless to hope to see an incredible astronomical phenomenon. The Moon is simply full, like what we see regularly.

The Full Wolf Moon will turn our lives upside down », « the Full Wolf Moon of January 2023 will hit very hard », « the full Moon of the Wolf is the astronomical event of this beginning of the year 2023! »… The announcements around a supposed extraordinary Full Moon are multiplying at the beginning of the year. If the first full moon of 2023 does occur on January 7, it has nothing more than usual to offer. And, above all, not “a wolf”.

In fact, the “Full Wolf Moon” is one of many poetic Moon names, which however have no meaning in astronomy. It is misleading to claim that the January 7 Moon provides an unusual sight. This, even if NASA tweeted on January 6 that ” we howl for the first full moon of 2023 “, with a Wolf emoji, which contributes to maintain this confusion.

Yes, the Moon is full. But, it’s nothing extraordinary

The full moon simply designates the lunar phase during which the visible face of the star is entirely illuminated by the Sun, from our point of view. This is because the Moon is then opposite the Sun, relative to our planet. The opposite of the full Moon is the new Moon: the star is between the Earth and the Sun, and is therefore not visible.

You can see a full moon about every 29 days — weather permitting, of course. It is therefore not a rare or extraordinary phenomenon.

The phases of the Moon, including the full Moon. // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A wolf on the moon?

Of course, there is no need to look for a wolf on the Moon, neither on January 7th, nor on any other day of the year. To speak of a “full wolf moon” is not an expression of scientific value.

In his article announcing that ” the next Full Moon is the Wolf Moon “, posted online on January 5, 2023, NASA itself admits that this expression has cultural origins. This term is borrowed from a North American cultural tradition, stemming from Native Americans — as are the “Strawberry Moon”, the “Pink Moon”, the “Sturgeon Moon” and many other nicknames.

These cultural names, given to the Moon to follow the passing of the seasons, began to appear in American periodicals, such as Farmers’ Almanac Where The Old Farmer’s Almanac, in the 1930s. These works were read for their weather forecasts or their cooking recipes. For the month of January, we can see that the second almanac quoted speaks effectively even today of ” Full Wolf Moon “. ” The January Full Moon is thought to have been dubbed the Wolf Moon because wolves were more likely to be heard howling at that time. “, can we read.

The story is poetic. However, using the expression in communications of scientific value, as NASA and other publications do, maintains doubts. We thus find ourselves with the risk of confusing what comes from scientific reality and what comes from cultural tradition.

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