Illustration for article titled When to catch this month's 'worm moon' at its highest brilliancePhoto: Michael Andrew Just (Shutterstock)

This year’s celestial calendar is in full swing, and on Sunday, March 28th, the next visual treat will hit the night sky: the worm moon. This particular moon will be large and easy to spot because it hangs high above the earth, as it always does when it appears annually in March. Here you can find out more about the worm moon and how it gets its earthy name.

Illustration for article titled When to catch this month's 'worm moon' at its highest brilliance

What is a worm moon?

The worm moon is the full moon in March. With a few exceptions, every month has a full moon as not all full moons are created equal. When we are hyper-specific, a real full moon only exists under certain conditions.

Space.com explained:

Only when the moon, earth and sun are perfectly aligned is the moon 100% full, and this alignment creates a lunar eclipse.

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Most lay people are unaffected by these cosmological trifles, but the worm moon will meet these criteria on Sunday, March 28th at 2:48 p.m. (CET). When the sun, moon and earth are perfectly coordinated, the moment is called “syzygy”. This is the underlying concept of a true full moon.

Where does the worm moon get its name from?

Indeed, it turns out to be a tough question. According to the Peasant almanacThe name is ascribed to the explorer Captain Jonathan Carver from the 18th century, who coined the term “worm moon” because of the beetle larvae that appeared on the earth when the ground began to thaw in the spring sun. There is also the more general explanation that the moon got its name from worms that became visible in the thawing ground around this time of year.

Other names have been given to this moon over the centuries, most of which are from Native American tribes.

Some of these are listed after the Alamanac below:

The Sugar Moon (Ojibwe) marks the time of year when the sap of sugar maple begins to flow.

The Wind strong moon (Pueblo) refers to the strong wind days that come at this time of year.

The Sore eyes moon (Dakota, Lakota, Assiniboine) highlights the dazzling rays of the sun reflecting off the melting snow of late winter.

How you can see it

The Worm Moon is a three-day treat stretching between Friday March 26th (tonight) and its climax on Sunday March 28th. On Monday the 29 also shows the moon at 99% of its highest brilliance (meaning you probably won, don’t notice the difference).

The best time to see the worm moon is when the moon rises on Sunday (6:48 p.m. Universal Time) when that happens where you live.

Is it a supermoon?

The definition of a supermoon is an imprecise science – and actually just a term that news outlets use somewhat arbitrarily for clickable headlines. However, the term goes back to the astrologer Richard Nolle, who in 1979 coined the term for “either a new or a full moon that occurs when the moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to earth”.

However, there is some uncertainty surrounding the worm moon’s classification as a supermoon, as science writer Jamie Carter explains Forbes::

A supermoon is a full moon that occurs within 90% its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. This definition specifies four supermoons in 2021, of which the “Super Worm Moon” is the first in a sequence. This weekend’s full moon is just around the corner, however, with other definitions of a supermoon – including of The astrologer Richard Nole (the originator of the term “supermoon”) suggests that the “worm moon” is a little too far away to be called a supermoon.

If this moon isn’t getting quite as close to Earth as some others, you can still find solace in the next flood of moons, all of which are approaching Earth and are therefore considered to be supermoons with little debate.

How NASA explains::

The full moons in April and May are almost the next full moons of the year. The full moon on May 26, 2021 will be a little closer to Earth than the full moon on April 26, 2021, but only by a slim 0.04%!

Even if the worm moon doesn’t technically qualify as a supermoon, those who follow will certainly do.