Full Wolf Moon Eclipse: First Full Moon of 2020 to Rise This Week

The first full moon of 2020 is taking place this week on Friday.

A full moon occurs once every 29.5 days, appearing halfway through the lunar cycle. This particular full moon is the Wolf Moon, which simply means it is the first of the year. Other names appointed to the January full moon include Old Moon, Ice Moon and the Moon After Yule.

In 2020, the Wolf Moon happens to coincide with an eclipse—the first of six expected this year and the second of the current eclipse season, following the December 26 solar eclipse.

This week's is a penumbral lunar eclipse, meaning only the outer shadow (the penumbra) will fall on the moon. The inner, more intense shadow (the umbra) will not, and so the peak of the eclipse will be harder to discern than it would be if it was one of the other two types of lunar eclipse (a partial or total) and may be missed completely.

The next eclipse in the calendar will also be a penumbral lunar eclipse and is due on June 5

The eclipse occurs at 2:21 p.m. ET. Because it is during daylight hours, it will not be visible from the U.S. and most of the Americas. Those in the best position to see it will be viewing in Europe, Asia and eastern Africa.

Wolf Moon
A Wolf Moon captured rising over Glastonbury Tor on January 11, 2017 in Somerset, England Matt Cardy/Getty

Why is it called the Wolf Moon?

According to the Royal Museums Greenwich, the Wolf Moon was named after hungry wolves, who howled at the moon during winter out of distress from the lack of food.

Each full moon in the yearly cycle has a nickname taken from various cultures, including the Native Americans and Anglo-Saxons.

In February, there is the Snow Moon, also known as the Storm Moon or Hunger Moon. March has the Worm Moon, named after the worm trails found on newly thawed land. It also goes by the name of Chaste Moon, Death Moon, Crust Moon and Sap Moon.

Other names include Pink Moon (April), Flower Moon (May), Strawberry Moon (June), Buck Moon (July), Sturgeon Moon (August), Full Corn Moon (September), Hunter's Moon (October), Beaver Moon (November) and Cold Moon (December).

The one exception here is the "Blue Moon," which refers to the 13th full moon of the year or second full moon of the month. A "Blue Moon" takes place once every two to three years.

The three types of lunar eclipse

There are three types of lunar eclipse, including the penumbral.

A partial lunar eclipse is when only a section of the moon enters the Earth's shadow. The Earth never fully covers the moon. Instead, it appears to bite the moon. The shadow gets bigger. Then, it gets smaller before disappearing completely.

The total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of the three. It is when the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. Although the moon sits directly in the Earth's shadow, some sunlight escapes and reaches the moon, turning it a reddish color—hence its alternate name: a "blood moon."