Why is this weekend’s full moon (the flower moon) so unusual?

When an exceptional full moon peeks out of the sky on Saturday morning, a whole host of lunar vocabulary will come with it.

It’s no coincidence that the word “moon” looks like “month.” They share a Germanic base — plus, the moon’s cycle resets itself on average every 29.53 days. The period of time between new moons is known as the synodic month. (A new moon, also called a dark moon, is not visible to earthlings. It occurs when the moon’s orbit crosses exactly between the Earth and the sun.)

This month’s full moon is called the flower moon in English. Other religious and cultural traditions have different names for the flower moon. For example, in Algonquian, this full lunar phase is a called the strawberry moon.

This year’s flower moon, however, has an added component. For nearly four hours, a partial lunar eclipse will obscure half the moon. According to Space.com columnist Joe Rao, at its peak the moon will be “possibly tinged slightly with a mixture of faint orange and reddish hues.”

The moon will be crossing through the southern portion of the Earth’s shadow — also known as its umbra. (Notice the relation to “umbrella.”) Because of the moon’s southern position in the zodiac constellation Sagittarius, not everyone will have the best view of the eclipse. People who live on or near the Pacific Ocean should consider themselves lucky; those on the Atlantic, not as much.

The lunar cycle — which includes variants of waxing, waning, and gibbous phases — sometimes produces more than twelve full moons in a year. The most commonly known of these is a blue moon, the third full moon in a three-month calendrical season that has four full moons. Blue moons occur on average every 2.7 years, the next of which is due in August 2012.


  1. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 12, 2014 - 3:39 am

    So why is it called the flower moon? Because of the colors, maybe? Pretty name, I must say. I also like “strawberry moon.”

  2. RasEnoch -  October 19, 2013 - 11:12 am

    “This is the day the day the Lord God has made. ” From what I am reading here, all the comments, technically, are validating this passage of the scripture. “The evening and morning” is the firsts and only day. All others that appear to follow are an illusion or figurative of this eternal constant.

  3. BOBBY SCOTT -  September 23, 2013 - 4:42 pm


  4. person -  April 17, 2013 - 4:42 pm


  5. facebook fans -  February 21, 2012 - 8:57 pm

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  6. Haroldo -  March 31, 2011 - 3:15 pm

    I hope to see the Blue Moon in August 2012. I intend to observe her beauty better. Could you please say me the right day she will appear?

  7. Helper -  March 19, 2011 - 7:43 am

    I think the problem we’re having with the “New Moon” explanations versus the “Solar Eclipse” explanations, from what I’ve read of the responses, is that the new moon and a solar eclipse BOTH occur when the MOON is BETWEEN the EARTH and SUN, but the difference is that, conventionally, a SOLAR ECLIPSE occurs in the DAYTIME when the moon partially or entirely blocks the sun’s light for a time, casting a shadow on the earth.

    In contrast, the NEW MOON, conventionally, is when the moon is in the NIGHT sky, but it is not “visible” because the face that is lit is toward the sun (which is on the other side of the planet, hence night), BUT in this instance the moon is not “exactly” between the earth and the sun.

    I hope this explanation is clear. I reread it a few to be certain. :)

  8. Tyler -  January 28, 2011 - 6:01 pm

    @ Char
    I’m pretty sure that’s right. If the moon passed between the Earth and Sun, that means it cut off day. Which means it would have had to have been day in the first place. So, you mean on nights of a new moon, the night is twice as long. Or at least an hour or two?

  9. Char -  December 21, 2010 - 5:20 am

    I agree with bugalan… I thought a “new moon” or “dark moon” was at night when you can’t see the moon because the Earth is between the sun and the moon. If the moon were passing between the Earth and the sun, we would be able to see the sun’s light, which would mean it was daytime. That’s what I thought was referred to as a solar eclipse.

  10. wILLIam -  June 30, 2010 - 5:44 pm

    good blog. cheers

  11. LisaQ -  June 30, 2010 - 12:43 pm


    It’s in plain SIGHT on the SITE.

  12. dakra -  June 30, 2010 - 8:46 am

    HoPeFuLlY, I cOuLd sEe a BlUe mOoN…

  13. Cheerio -  June 28, 2010 - 11:34 pm

    to Janette Summers…. I fully beleive that God created the moon… and the heavens and the earth…and all that inhabit it!

  14. AJS -  June 28, 2010 - 8:32 pm

    Yes, i can. God can do anything.

  15. Me -  June 28, 2010 - 8:31 pm

    wot do you mean, Janette Summers?

  16. Janette Summers -  June 28, 2010 - 7:54 pm

    Can you believe that the moon was created by God?

  17. Jeevendra -  June 28, 2010 - 7:03 am

    I love this hot word feature. Good work & keep it up!!

    @Mujtaba Zaidi

    It might be jargon. But trying to decipher the meaning of jargon helps us to find new words. If the articles was very simple, we’ll be learning only one word & would not be interesting as this. What’s the use in that? You can, of course, click on the blue colored words to find out the meaning, without thinking that it is a hassle…

  18. schmoo -  June 27, 2010 - 5:09 pm

    Interesting article…never knew a Blue Moon actually was something that occured in real life!!

  19. Shannon -  June 26, 2010 - 9:35 pm

    What do you mean? Do you mean the literal meaning of the word “full”?

  20. Zensuna -  June 26, 2010 - 9:10 pm

    Well, this topic is only brought up once in a blue moon!

  21. Kelly Kaye -  June 26, 2010 - 8:11 pm

    Mujtaba Zaidi comments that <>

    You’re on a Dictionary website!! Look it up!! They’ve even already linked those pesky two syllable words like ‘eclipse’ to the definitions for you. My bloody goodness, already! Are you kidding?? Really??

  22. Yami no Yuugi ;] -  June 26, 2010 - 6:26 pm

    i knew something was up with the moon last night. but i just figured it was a sign of the apocalypse.

  23. Lewis -  June 26, 2010 - 6:25 pm

    The moon between the earth and sun is actually a solar eclipse. A lunar eclipse happens when the earth is between sun and the earth.

  24. Dre -  June 26, 2010 - 5:33 pm

    Actually, there is no such thing as a “full” moon.

  25. kate -  June 26, 2010 - 5:28 pm

    eclipse or no eclipse, the moon was absolutely gorgeous last night. it had a sort of hazy glow around it–just beautiful.

  26. Soubriquet -  June 26, 2010 - 3:52 pm

    To Bugalan
    The article is correct.
    “A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind the earth such that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle.” – Wikipedia (Lunar eclipse)

    “…the phrase new moon is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon,…, lies between Earth and the Sun…” – Wikipedia (New moon)

  27. David -  June 26, 2010 - 3:50 pm

    Actually, a new moon or “Dark moon” DOES occur when the moon’s orbit crosses exactly between the Earth and Sun. That is a SOLAR eclipse of various types depending on how far the moon happens to be from the Earth on that orbit. It is also a new moon because the with the Sun on the opposite side of the Moon from the Earth, no light is reflected off the Moon to the Earth.

  28. Jack Cervantes -  June 26, 2010 - 2:42 pm

    Awesome facts from an awesome site.

  29. Thelma -  June 26, 2010 - 2:13 pm

    So is that the moon thats gonna happne tonight cuz this talked about the full moon that peeked out on Saturday morning. So is it supposed to happen tonight? Also what does it mean when it says peopl who live in the Atlantic not so much. Does it mena the states near the Atlantic Ocean like Florida, Georgia, North Carolania, etc. or islands in the Atlantic Ocean?

  30. Alan Turner -  June 26, 2010 - 12:39 pm

    If the moon passed between the earth and the sun there would be an eclipse of the sun. It happens all the time somewhere in the world but the English think it us unique to the UK and make a big deal of it.

  31. Symbolic Living -  June 26, 2010 - 12:28 pm

    Thank you for the information. It’s a powerful Full Moon Eclipse in Capricorn with a Grand Cross configuration with many planets in square aspect to each other. The Solar eclipse is in a few weeks.

  32. keren -  June 26, 2010 - 12:22 pm

    Yes i belived is really intresting and next blue moon for the year 2012 makes me get the chills. I wonder How that one is going to be!!

  33. Lawrence -  June 26, 2010 - 11:52 am

    Regarding bugalan’s comment, “A new moon or “dark moon” does not occur “when the moon’s orbit crosses exactly between the Earth and Sun”. That is a lunar eclipse.” ~ The article is correct. The new or dark moon does occur, in point of fact, when the moon passes *between* Earth and the sun, thus there’s no sunlight reflecting off of the moon’s surface and thus we can’t see the moon. At this time, the earth is in the *moon’s* shadow. This arrangement of the earth and the moon are what make a solar eclipse possible. Thus, we can have a solar eclipse only when we have, in essence, a new moon during the day.

    A lunar eclipse, however, is another instance during which we can’t see the moon (as well), but this time the reason that we can’t see it is that the moon passes *behind* the earth, such that Earth is between the moon and the sun. The moon is then in the earth’s shadow.

    This site has definitions and some illustrations:

    Wikipedia also offers simple diagrams at the top of their entries:

    We’re able to see a small bit of the dark side of the moon during waxing or waning gibbous moons due to a cool effect called ‘earthshine’. I was excited to see that Leonardo Da Vinci discovered earthshine. You can hear earthshine when you listen to the The Dark Side of the Moon.

    I think that astronomy is really cool stuff, evidenced by my lengthy response and the undercurrent of glee at sharing knowledge.

    Enjoy whatever you see in the sky,


  34. Ardeshir -  June 26, 2010 - 11:00 am

    Great blog! Cheers!

  35. Kat -  June 26, 2010 - 10:27 am

    The strange pearl in our night sky has enthralled humans for millenea. Nearly every culture has legends and lore surrounding the moon, from werewolves to lunacy. The Islamic claendar is based on the LUNAR cycle instead of the commonly used SOLAR cycle. For more names (and more information) google “moon names”! (bugalan, Space.com explains where the dark moon hides.)

  36. Jenn -  June 26, 2010 - 10:10 am


    Click on the words you don’t understand to see their definitions. It is, after all, dictionary.com

  37. Jenn -  June 26, 2010 - 10:08 am


    Yes it does. A solar eclipse can occur at this time if the angle of the moon and the sun allow the shadow of the moon to fall on earth. For a full explanation, see: http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases.phtml

  38. Silver Moon -  June 26, 2010 - 9:56 am

    When will this eclipse/flower moon be?

  39. astrogirl1usa -  June 26, 2010 - 9:44 am

    Bugalan is right, just another example of the lack of information in this column. Here is what a new moon really is – when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. Not between the Sun and the Earth!

  40. Judy -  June 26, 2010 - 9:28 am

    I saw the moon at about 5:30 this morning…and I was strangely drawn to it, mesmerized really. It actually surprised me to see it so big and full at such an hour. About an hour later, I saw it again on the horizon as a big red ball.

  41. taoistelf -  June 26, 2010 - 9:23 am

    Very interesting topic indeed. I am in the Pacific (Hawaii) and hope to see the lunar eclipse, but it is cloudy today. I didn’t quite get though why *this* moon is called the flower moon – it is inferred that it is one a year. I will have to look that up!

    Love these blogs and love this site. <–geek


  42. Yven -  June 26, 2010 - 9:09 am

    Very interesting the effect that this flower moon has on humans is very amazing . it is called( “x@c8?= sweet ) check it out tonight!

  43. Person -  June 26, 2010 - 9:08 am

    So, when will we best be able to observe the eclipse?

  44. Rusty -  June 26, 2010 - 8:16 am

    @bugalan Actually it is a lunar eclipse when the Earth is exactly between the Moon and Sun. They should have omitted the word exactly as the phenomenon they describe is a solar eclipse. However, when the moon is between the Sun and Earth in its orbit(not exactly) it is the New Moon phase, since we can not observe it as lit in that position.

  45. Reg -  June 26, 2010 - 8:14 am

    @ bungalan: When the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, the far side is illuminated. If it casts a shadow upon the Earth, during this time, you have a SOLAR eclipse in the areas that are under shadow. Total eclipse under the full shadow (Umbra) and Partial Eclipse under the lighter edges of the shadow (Penumbra).

  46. [...] — There’s always something we learn to enthrall us – Take it or leave it the “FLOWER MOON”. — — “tf;dg” from “GENERATION TEXT” is something we feel we [...]

  47. Mujtaba Zaidi -  June 26, 2010 - 5:20 am

    The jargons used in this article are too difficult to understand..You have to have the proper knowledge of Science or Zodiac to understand the article..

  48. bugalan -  June 26, 2010 - 5:19 am

    A new moon or “dark moon” does not occur “when the moon’s orbit crosses exactly between the Earth and Sun”. That is a lunar eclipse.

  49. joanna_18 -  June 26, 2010 - 4:52 am

    interesting topic…

  50. Jake -  June 26, 2010 - 3:55 am

    So is that part of the reason why sometimes the moon appears orange out of nowhere? very interesting


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