Full Sturgeon Moon 2022: Meaning Behind August Supermoon

August's full moon is popularly referred to as the Sturgeon Moon. So where does the name come from and what is the meaning behind it?

Full moons are a lunar phase that occurs roughly once every month when the moon is located opposite the sun in space, with the Earth in between. At these times, the side of the moon that faces toward us is fully illuminated, appearing like a perfect circle.

Technically, the moon turns full only at a specific point in time, which this month will be Thursday, August 11, at 9:36 p.m. ET (6:36 p.m. PT), according to NASA.

Many of the traditional names for the full moons that we use today come from Native American sources. They are often English interpretations of words used in Indigenous languages.

Traditionally, each of these names was applied to the entire lunar month in which the full moon occurred, rather than to simply the full moon itself.

The name "Sturgeon Moon" originates with the Algonquin peoples native to what is now the Northeastern United States, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. It refers to the fact that this period was considered a prime time for catching sturgeon in the Great Lakes and other major water bodies in the region.

More than 25 species of sturgeon are found around the world, including the lake sturgeon—a freshwater fish that lives in the Great Lakes and other parts of North America.

A supermoon over Washington, D.C.
A supermoon over Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2021. August's full moon is typically referred to as the Sturgeon Moon. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

These fish were once plentiful and constituted an important part of the diet of the Indigenous peoples who inhabited the Great Lakes region. But overfishing in the 1800s and 1900s—driven by the commercial fishing industry—led to dramatic reductions in the lake sturgeon population. Other factors, such as pollution produced by paper mills, had a negative impact on the species.

Despite this, the species has made a slow recovery in recent years with the help of conservation efforts.

Lake sturgeon typically grow to lengths of around 7 feet, can weigh 200 pounds and may live as long as 150 years, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Sturgeon in general are sometimes referred to as "living fossils" because they have remained virtually unchanged for 150 million years.

The Sturgeon Moon is not the only traditional name for the full moon in August. Others originating from Native American peoples are the Flying Up Moon, Corn Moon, Harvest Moon, Ricing Moon, Black Cherries Moon and Mountain Shadows Moon.

This year's Sturgeon Moon is considered to be a "supermoon." This is a nonscientific term popularly used to describe a full moon that is close to its perigee—the point in the satellite's orbit when it is nearest to Earth.

The reason we have supermoons is that the moon's orbit around the Earth is actually elliptical, or oval-shaped, rather than perfectly circular, meaning the distance between the two bodies varies over time.

There is no strict definition of a supermoon, but the term is typically used to describe any full moon that occurs when the satellite is within 90 percent of its minimum distance from the Earth. The supermoon this August will be the fourth and final one of the year.