A Super Flower Moon
Butterfly in lavender field and Super Flower Moon

A Super Flower Moon

30/04/2020Written by Malika Andress

On 07 May the UK will see the Super Flower Moon.

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mascot Telescope Right
Stargazer silhouetted against the Moon. Credit: Jordan Mansfield

On Thursday 07 May 2020, a Supermoon, named the Flower Moon, will be in the night sky, but what does this name actually mean for our closest cosmic companion, the Moon, and what will we be able to see in the UK?

Although we call it the Flower Moon, it has other names including the Corn Planting Moon, the Hare Moon and the Milk Moon.

Supermoon

Supermoon
An image showing the difference between a supermoon and a 'normal' moon. Credit: Marco Langbroek

A ‘Supermoon‘ is the name given to the coincidence between a full or new moon and the point when the Moon is the closest to the Earth.

This is only really noticeable during a full moon when it is bright and visible in the night sky. Because the Moon is closer to the Earth it appears larger in the night sky. But don’t believe the misleading images that make the Moon look enormous compared to its usual size. While the Moon does look bigger because it is closer to the Earth, the actual size increase is only around 14 percent.

This is still a noticeable size increase, especially when the Moon is close to the horizon, so definitely worth checking out on 07 May.

Flower Moon

Flower Moon
The red hue seen on the Moon during an eclipse. Credit: NASA

The names of Supermoons typically derive from people using the full moon as a way to track the changing seasons.

People could plan agriculture, moving animals, planting, harvests, hunting and all manner of important lifestyle decisions based on the lunar months.

A combination of Native American, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic month names which gave birth to the names commonly used for the Full Moon today.

A common misconception is that the Moon changes colour during this period. This, I’m afraid, doesn’t happen, however there have been recorded example of when the Moon does ‘appear’ to turn blue. This happens when there are certain sized particles in the air, usually from volcanoes or forest fires.

We can also see the Moon becoming red, also known as a Blood Moon, during a lunar eclipse.

Why Flowers for May?

Why Flowers for May?
Butterfly in lavender field and Super Flower Moon

This month’s full moon is known as the Flower Moon for very obvious reasons, this is the month we see flowers in bloom.

Wildflowers bloom in the hedgerows, which would have been the visual signifier for our ancestors to look to the next phase in the farming calendar.

Other names for May’s brightest Moon phase are Corn Planting Moon, Mother’s Moon, and Milk Moon, from the Old English Rimilcemona which means Month of Three Milkings, when cows were milked three times a day.