Sure, you can see a full moon in the sky every month of the year—but some are more significant than others. (Remember the Halloween blue moon?) Case in point: This month’s full moon (and the first of 2021) will the highest one of the year, and it’s a wolf moon. Here’s everything to know.
Wait, what is a wolf moon?
There’s nothing canine about it—the wolf moon just is the name for January’s full moon. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, it most likely has early Native American origins, since wolves were more often heard howling in the dead of winter. But it’s also sometimes refered to as the “Cold Moon” or “Frost Exploding Moon” by the Cree, the “Spirit Moon” by the Ojibwe and the “Center Moon” by the Assiniboine people (with the idea that it roughly marks the middle of winter), per Space.com. And NASA has a lengthy list of even more names for this moon.
What’s special about January’s wolf moon?
Other than being the first full moon of the calendar year, January’s wolf moon will also be at its highest point in the sky for northern hemisphere viewers. That’s because the sun and full moon are opposite each other, and when the sun is low (i.e., in winter), the moon is high. That means anyone in North America will get a front-row seat to see the wolf moon.
When can I see the January wolf moon?
First of all, it’s happening on January 28, aka tonight.
It depends on where you’re located, but the best time to view the January wolf moon is between moonrise and sunset, when there’s just enough light in the sky to get the dramatic, dusky orange effect. (You can look up your exact moonrise and sunset times here.) For example, New York City’s moonrise is at 5:01 p.m. EST and sunset is at 5:09 p.m. EST on January 28. In Los Angeles, California, sunset is at 5:19 p.m. PST and moonrise is at 5:24 p.m. PST.
To get a great view (and some photos for the ’Gram), you’ll want to find a high window or balcony that looks to the eastern horizon. Set yourself up around moonrise time and keep your eyes peeled. Oh, and if you miss it, there’s always February’s snow moon.