This month’s full moon is commonly known as the Fish Moon. It has also been call the Sap Moon, Worm Moon, Lenten Moon, and Crow Moon. The Lakota Sioux called it the “Moon of Snow Blindness”. To the Zuni it was “Little Sandstorm Moon”. The San Juan called it the “Lizard Moon”. The Delaware called it the “Moon when the Juice Drips from the Trees”.
March, or Martius as March was called in ancient Rome, is named after the Roman god Mars or Ares, the Greek god of war. In ancient Rome, March was, and still is, the first month of spring. It is a logical point for the beginning of the year as well as the start of the military campaign season. Note that many cultures and religions still start the year in March. January became the first month of the calendar year back in ancient Rome possibly as early as 713 BC. It wasn’t until the wide-spread adoption of the Gregorian calendar that January was accepted as the beginning of the year.
Technically the full moon is only a moment in time. That moment occurs at 3:28am MDT on March 27. The Moon will look full on the evenings March 26, and 27. So which is closest to the true full moon? There is an easy way for the casual observer to tell. A full moon always rises opposite the setting Sun. In general, the Moon that rises within a half hour of sunset is closest to the full moon. If the Moon is well above the horizon or has not risen until well after (greater than a half hour) sunset, it is not a full moon even though it looks like one. Let’s see what the data shows this month for Aurora, CO.
March 25 (if you look closely you will see the Moon is not yet full)
Sunset: 7:15 PM MDT
Moonrise: 5:51 PM MDT
Difference: 1 hour 24 minutes (Failed, Moon and Sun are not opposite)
Sunset: 7:16 PM MDT
Moonrise: 6:57 PM MDT
Difference: 19 minute (Pass, Moon and Sun are opposite)
Sunset: 7:17 PM MDT
Moonrise: 8:05 PM MDT
Difference: 48 minutes (Failed, Moon and Sun are not opposite)
This test works pretty much every time for any full looking Moon. Even though the “official” full moon for March is on March 27 the Moon is closer to a full Moon on March 26. Remember the full moon happens at 3:28 AM the morning of March 27. The moon on the evening of March 26 is 8 hours and 31 minutes before full moon. On March 27 the moon 16 hours and 35 minutes after full moon. Even though the Moon on March 26 is closer to the full moon by 8 hours than on March 27, it would be hard to tell the difference.
Any time the Moon is opposite (within 30 minutes) the Sun in the evening or morning it’s a full moon. Take the time this month to notice.
A full moon is the only time the Moon is up all night and the only time a lunar eclipse can take place as it did last June. Full moons also set in the west opposite the rising sun. Living near the front-range, as we do, provides neat moonsets over the mountains, easily noticed by early morning west-bound commuters.
On March 27 (morning) moonset (6:44 AM MDT) will occur only 7 minutes before sunrise (6:51 AM MDT). You will be hard pressed to see a Moon looking any fuller than this. You want to start watching around 6:30AM MDT. If you have the time, observe the sunrise. They are usually pretty good here in Colorado.
Wishing you clear skies