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The Next Full Moon is the Flower, Corn, or Corn Planting Moon

A full moon hike at Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Next Full Moon is the Flower, Corn, or Corn Planting Moon; the Milk Moon; the Hare’s Moon; and Vesak, Buddha Jayanti, or Buddha Purnima.

The next full Moon will be on Thursday morning, May 23, 2024, at 9:53 AM EDT. This will be Friday morning from the Lord Howe Island time zone (just east of Australia) eastward across New Zealand and the Pacific to the International Date Line. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Tuesday night through early Friday evening. Thursday night the bright star Antares will appear so close to the Moon that for the Washington, DC area, the Moon will pass in front of Antares, blocking it from view, although the brightness of the full Moon will make it difficult to see the star vanish behind the Moon.

The Maine Farmers’ Almanac began publishing “Indian” names for full Moons in the 1930s and these names are now widely known and used. According to this almanac, as the full Moon in May the Algonquin tribes of what is now the north-eastern United States called this the Flower Moon for the flowers that are abundant this time of year. Other names include the Corn or Corn Planting Moon.

An old English name for this Moon is the Milk Moon. In 703 AD the English monk St. Bede the Venerable wrote that what we now call May was the “Three-Milkings Month,” apparently because this was the month when cows could be milked three times a day.

A variety of sources list the full Moon in May as the Hare’s Moon. Current western traditions see the patterns on the Moon as representing the “Man in the Moon.” Many other cultures identify a hare or rabbit “in the Moon”. There are also sculptures, images, and tales about Moon gazing hares. The Chinese zodiac tends to associate the hare or rabbit with early March to early April. The English idiom “mad as a March hare” appears to be based on the antics of the European hare during its March breeding season. Some scholars identify the hare as sacred to the West Germanic spring goddess Ä’ostre, a name tied to our word for Easter and the Anglo-Saxon name for April, and this connection may be the origin of the Easter Bunny. These associations suggest to me that the Hare’s Moon might have been closer to Easter and the start of spring, rather than always being the full Moon in May. I’ll let you know next year if I find out more about the origin of the Hare’s Moon.

This full Moon corresponds to Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima, a holiday (according to Wikipedia) “traditionally observed by Buddhists in South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as Tibet and Mongolia.” Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha.” The actual date varies depending upon the calendar in use in the particular country or region, but for most it falls on or near this full Moon.

Many lunar and lunisolar calendars start the months on or just after the new Moon, which means the full Moon is near the middle of the month. This full Moon is near the middle of the fourth month of the Chinese year of the Dragon. In the Hebrew calendar this full Moon is near the middle of Iyar. The 14 of Iyar (generally just before the full Moon) is Pesach Sheni (Second Passover) for those unavoidably prevented from offering the Korban Pesach a month earlier on Passover. This full Moon is near the middle of Dhu al-Qadah, the eleventh month of the Islamic year. Dhu al-Qadah is also called “Master of Truces” and is one of the four sacred months in Islam during which warfare is prohibited (except in self defense).

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon. Be sure to take time to stop and appreciate the flowers and other pleasures of springtime, and avoid starting any wars.

As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next (with specific times and angles based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC):

As spring draws to an end the daily periods of sunlight lengthen, reaching their longest on the summer solstice on the day before the full Moon after next. On Thursday, May 23 (the day of the full Moon), morning twilight will begin at 4:40 AM, sunrise will be at 5:49 AM, solar noon will be at 1:05 PM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 71.9 degrees, sunset will be at 8:21 PM, and evening twilight will end at 9:30 PM.

The solar days (as measured, for example, from solar noon to solar noon on a sundial) are longer than 24 hours near the solstices, so the earliest sunrises of the year occur before the summer solstice (and the latest sunsets occur after the solstice). For the location of NASA Headquarters, at least (I’ve not checked for other latitudes), Thursday, June 13, 2024, will be the morning with the earliest sunrise of the year. Morning twilight will start at 4:30 AM EDT and sunrise will be at 5:42:11 AM.

Solar noon on Tuesday, June 18 to solar noon on Wednesday, June 19, will be the longest solar day for this half of the year, 13 seconds longer than 24 hours (although the solar days around the winter solstice from November 18, 2024 through January 24, 2025 will be longer).

The summer solstice, the astronomical end of spring and start of summer, will be on Thursday afternoon, June 20, at 4:51 PM EDT. Morning twilight will begin at 4:30 AM, sunrise will be at 5:43 AM, solar noon at 1:10 PM when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 74.6 degrees (its highest for the year), sunset at 8:37 PM, and evening twilight ending at 9:49 PM. This will be the day with the longest period of sunlight (14 hours, 53 minutes, 42.5 seconds).

The next day, Friday, June 21, will be the day of the full Moon after next. Rounded to the nearest minute, the times of twilight, sunrise, etc., will be the same as on the solstice the day before, although the period of daylight will be 1.2 seconds shorter.

No comets are expected to be visible and the only meteor shower peaking during this lunar cycle is a daytime shower measured by radio forward scatter observations (not a meteor shower we can see).

Evening Sky Highlights

On the evening of Thursday, May 23, 2024 (the evening of the day of the full Moon), as twilight ends (at 9:30 PM EDT), the rising Moon will be 4 degrees above the southeastern horizon with the bright star Antares just off the edge of the Moon. For parts of South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and parts of the eastern USA (including Washington, DC), the Moon will be passing in front of Antares, blocking it from view. The bright object appearing closest to overhead will be Arcturus at 60 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes the herdsman or plowman and is the 4th brightest star in our night sky. It is 36.7 light years from us. While it has about the same mass as our Sun, it is about 2.6 billion years older and has used up its core hydrogen, becoming a red giant 25 times the size and 170 times the brightness of our Sun.

As this lunar cycle progresses the background of stars will appear to shift westward each evening (as the Earth moves around the Sun). The waxing Moon will pass by Pollux on June 8, Regulus on June 11, Spica on June 16, and Antares on June 19.

By the evening of Friday, June 21 (the evening of the day of the full Moon after next), as twilight ends (at 9:49 PM EDT), the rising Moon will be 7 degrees above the southeastern horizon. The bright planets Venus and Mercury will not be above the horizon, with Venus setting 21 minutes and Mercury setting 43 minutes after sunset. Mercury may be visible from about 30 minutes after sunset until it sets 13 minutes later. The bright object appearing closest to overhead still will be Arcturus at 69 degrees above the south-southwestern horizon.

Morning Sky Highlights

On the morning of Thursday, May 23, 2024 (the morning of the day of the full Moon), as twilight begins (at 4:40 AM EDT), the setting Moon will be 7 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The planet Mars will be 10 degrees above the eastern horizon and the planet Saturn will be 22 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. Mercury will rise on the east-northeastern horizon 14 minutes after morning twilight begins. The bright object appearing closest to overhead will be the star Vega at 78 degrees above the western horizon, with Deneb a close second at 76.5 degrees above the northeastern horizon. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra the lyre and is one of the three bright stars in the “Summer Triangle” along with Deneb and Altair. Vega, the 5th brightest star in our night sky, is about 25 light-years from Earth, twice the mass of our Sun, and shines 40 times brighter than our Sun.

As this lunar cycle progresses, Saturn and the background of stars will appear to shift westward each evening, while Mars will hover low on the eastern horizon, drifting slightly to the left. Mercury, rising after morning twilight begins, will also drift towards the left, moving closer each morning towards where the Sun is rising, making it more difficult to see as it shifts into the glow of dawn. The waning Moon will pass by Antares on May 24, Saturn on May 31, and Mars on June 2 and 3. On June 5, the thin, waning crescent Moon will appear near the Pleiades star cluster, with Jupiter and Mercury below. The Moon will rise 5 minutes after morning twilight begins. By the time Jupiter and Mercury rise, the sky will likely be too bright to see the Pleiades, and may be bright enough that you will need binoculars to see them (as well as a clear view of the east-northeastern horizon). After June 15 the bright planet Jupiter will join Mars and Saturn in the morning sky.

By the morning of Friday, June 21 (the morning of the day of the full Moon after next), as twilight begins (at 4:31 AM EDT), the setting full Moon will be 2 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The brightest planet in the sky will be Jupiter at just 3 degrees above the east-northeastern horizon. The planet Mars will be 19 degrees above the eastern horizon and the planet Saturn (almost as bright as Mars) will be 37 degrees above the southeastern horizon. The bright object appearing closest to overhead will be the star Deneb at 80 degrees above the northwestern horizon. Deneb is the 19th brightest star in our night sky and is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus the swan. Deneb is one of the three bright stars of the “Summer Triangle” (along with Vega and Altair). Deneb is about 20 times more massive than our Sun but has used up its hydrogen, becoming a blue-white supergiant about 200 times the diameter of the Sun. If Deneb were where our Sun is, it would extend to about the orbit of the Earth. Deneb is about 2,600 light years from us.

Detailed Daily Guide

Here for your reference is a day-by-day listing of celestial events between now and the full Moon after next. The times and angles are based on the location of NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, and some of these details may differ for where you are (I use parentheses to indicate times specific to the DC area).

Friday afternoon, May 17, 2024, at 3 PM EDT, the waxing gibbous Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

Saturday afternoon, May 18, 2024, the planet Jupiter will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called conjunction. Because Jupiter orbits outside of the orbit of Earth it will be shifting from the evening to the morning sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dawn on the east-northeastern horizon in early June.

Sunday evening into Monday morning, May 19 to 20, 2024, the bright star Spica will be near the waxing gibbous Moon. Spica will be 4.5 degrees to the lower left of the Moon as evening twilight ends (at 9:26 PM EDT). The Moon will reach its highest in the sky for the night an hour later (at 10:28 PM) with Spica 4 degrees to the lower left. By the time the Moon sets on the west-southwestern horizon (at 4:06 AM) Spica will be 2 degrees to the left of the Moon.

The full Moon after next will be on Thursday morning, May 23, 2024, at 9:53 AM EDT. This will be on Friday morning from the Lord Howe time zone eastward to the International Date Line. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Tuesday night through early Friday evening.

Thursday evening into Friday morning, May 23 to 24, 2024, the bright star Antares will appear near the full Moon, so near that for the Washington, DC area, the Moon will pass in front of Antares, blocking it from view from about 9:37 to about 10:06 PM. Occurrence and times will vary by location, see http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/0524zc2366.htm for a map and information on the locations that will see this occultation. The brightness of the full Moon will make it difficult to see the moment the star vanishes and reappears from behind the Moon.

Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2024, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 1:13 PM EDT (when it will be below the western horizon).

Friday morning, May 31, 2024, the planet Saturn will appear quite near the waning crescent Moon. As the Moon rises on the eastern horizon (at 2:12 AM EDT) Saturn will be 1.5 degrees to the upper left of the Moon. They will appear at their closest (from the Washington, DC area) around 3:50 AM. Viewers from the southern part of South America will see the Moon pass in front of Saturn (see http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/planets/0531saturn.htm for information on the areas that can see this occultation). By the time morning twilight begins (at 4:34 AM) Saturn will be 1 degree above the Moon.

Early Sunday morning, June 2, 2024, at 3:23 AM EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

Sunday morning, June 2, 2024, the planet Mars will appear to the lower left of the waning crescent Moon. As Mars rises on the eastern horizon (at 3:26 AM EDT) it will be 8 degrees from the Moon. By the time morning twilight begins about an hour later (at 4:33 AM) Mars will be 7 degrees from the Moon. This will also be the first morning that the bright planet Jupiter will be above the east-northeaster horizon 30 minutes before sunrise, a rough approximation of when it will start emerging from the glow of dawn.

By Monday morning, June 3, 2024, the waning crescent Moon will have shifted to the other side of Mars. As the Moon rises on the east-northeastern horizon (at 3:29 AM EDT) Mars will be 6 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. Morning twilight will begin about an hour later (at 4:33 AM) with Mars 7 degrees to the upper right.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the planet Venus will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called superior conjunction. Because Venus orbits inside of the orbit of Earth it will be shifting from the morning to the evening sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dusk on the western horizon around the end of June (depending upon viewing conditions).

Wednesday morning, June 5, 2024, the Pleiades star cluster will appear 1.5 degrees above the thin, waning crescent Moon, with Jupiter and Mercury rising later below the Moon. The Moon will rise (at 4:37 AM EDT) on the east-northeastern horizon 5 minutes after morning twilight begins (at 4:32 AM). By the time Jupiter and Mercury rise (at 5:02 and 5:07 AM, respectively), the sky will be too bright to see the Pleiades, and may be bright enough that you will need binoculars (and a clear view of the east-northeastern horizon) to see the Moon and these planets. Mercury rise will be only 36 minutes before sunrise.

Thursday morning, June 6, 2024, at 8:38 AM EDT, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from the Earth. The day of or the day after the New Moon marks the start of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. June 6 is the start of the fifth month of the Chinese year of the Dragon. Sundown on June 6 marks the start of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar.

In the Islamic calendar the months traditionally start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon. Many Muslim communities now follow the Umm al-Qura Calendar of Saudi Arabia, which uses astronomical calculations to start months in a more predictable way. Using this calendar, sundown on Thursday evening, June 6, 2024, will probably mark the beginning of Dhu al-Hijjah, although this is one of four months for which the calendar dates are often adjusted by the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia after actual sightings of the lunar crescent. The Hajj is held on the eighth, ninth, and the tenth of the month. Making the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In addition, the Day of Arafah is held on the ninth and Eid al-Adha (the “Festival of the Sacrifice”) on the tenth through the thirteenth. Dhu al-Hijjah is the twelfth and final month of the Islamic year and is one of the four sacred months during which fighting is forbidden.

On Saturday evening, June 8, 2024, the bright star Pollux (the brighter of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini) will appear 4 degrees above the thin, waxing crescent Moon. As evening twilight ends (at 9:44 PM EDT) the Moon will be 13 degrees above the west-northwestern horizon. The Moon will set first on the northwestern horizon 82 minutes later (at 11:06 PM).

On Tuesday evening, June 11, 2024, the bright star Regulus will appear 3.5 degrees to the left of the waxing crescent Moon. As evening twilight ends (at 9:46 PM EDT) the Moon will be 33 degrees above the western horizon. Regulus will set first on the west-northwestern horizon less than 3 hours later (after midnight Wednesday morning at 12:35 AM).

For the Washington, DC area and similar latitudes (I’ve not run the calculations for other latitudes), the morning of Thursday, June 13, 2024, will be the morning with the earliest sunrise of the year. For the location of NASA Headquarters morning twilight will start at 4:30 AM EDT and sunrise will be at 5:42:11 AM. While the summer solstice is the day of the year with the longest period of daylight, the solar days near the solstice are longer than 24 hours, so the earliest sunrises of the year occur before and the latest sunsets occur after the summer solstice.

Early Friday morning, June 14, 2024, the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 1:18 AM EDT (when the Moon will be 1 degree above the western horizon.

Friday morning, June 14, 2024, at 9:36 AM EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

Mid-day on Friday, June 14, 2024, the planet Mercury will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called superior conjunction. Because Mercury orbits inside of the orbit of Earth it will be shifting from the morning to the evening sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dusk on the western horizon around June 19 (depending upon viewing conditions).

Sunday morning, June 16, 2024, will be the first morning that the bright planet Jupiter will be above the east-northeastern horizon as morning twilight begins (at 4:30 AM EDT).

Sunday evening into early Monday morning, June 16 to 17, 2024, the bright star Spica will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. As evening twilight ends (at 9:48 PM EDT) Spica will be 3.5 degrees to the right of the Moon. By the time Spica sets on the west-southwestern horizon 4.5 hours later (at 2:16 AM) it will be 5 degrees to the lower right of the Moon. Around the northern part of the boundary between Europe and Asia the Moon will actually block Spica from view.

Wednesday evening, June 19, 2024, will be the first evening the bright planet Mercury will be above the west-northwestern horizon 30 minutes after sunset, an approximation of when it will begin emerging from the glow of dusk. Each evening after this Mercury should become easier to spot and by the end of June will be above the horizon as evening twilight ends.

Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, June 19 to 20, 2024, the bright star Antares will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. As evening twilight ends (at 9:49 PM EDT) Antares will be 5 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. The Moon will reach its highest in the sky 1.5 hours later (at 11:25 PM EDT with Antares 4 degrees to the left of the Moon. The Moon will set first on the southwestern horizon (at 4:03 AM) with Antares 2 degrees to the upper left.

Thursday afternoon, June 20, 2024, at 4:51 PM EDT will be the Summer Solstice, the astronomical end of spring and start of summer. This will be the day with the longest period of sunlight (14 hours, 53 minutes, 42.5 seconds) but will not be the day with the earliest sunrise or the latest sunset.

The full Moon after next will be Friday evening, June 21, 2024, at 9:08 PM EDT. This will be on Saturday from Greenland and Cape Verde time eastward across Eurasia, Africa, and Australia to the International Date Line in the mid-Pacific. Most commercial calendars will show this full Moon on Saturday, June 22, the date of the full Moon in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Thursday evening through Sunday morning.

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