In some places in the United States, spring may feel like it’s a lifetime away. But the vernal equinox—aka the first day of spring—occurs on March 20th this year, as does March’s Super Worm Moon. This full moon will also be 2019’s final supermoon, so we’re sending winter on its way with a bang.
The Super Worm Moon certainly isn’t the most flattering name for March’s full moon, and definitely isn’t as fearsome as the Wolf Moon, Cold Moon, or Hunter’s Moon. However, its name signifies an important time of year—a notable transition from winter to spring. Some Native Americans and early European colonists called March’s full moon the Full Worm Moon because it’s during this time of year that the ground softens and earthworms begin to make their way to the surface again.
With the arrival of earthworms, we begin to the see robins and other birds, back from their winter migration, feeding on them. Birdsongs will fill the air again as the sun stays in the sky later in the day and the hemisphere begins to warm.
According to Almanac.com, other tribespeople and settlers in North America called March’s full moon the Full Sap Moon, because this time of year is also when sap starts to flow from the sugar maple trees. For this same reason, it’s also sometimes called the Full Sugar Moon.
Followers of Western Christianity may call March’s full moon the Full Lenten Moon, too, due to the fact that Easter Sunday follows the full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. This logic would point to March 24th being Easter Sunday—however, the Christian Church made March 21st the fixed date for the vernal equinox, and the Church does not follow the astronomical lunar calendar, but the ecclesiastical lunar calendar instead.
So, all that said, the next full moon after the fixed vernal equinox date occurs on April 19th. Therefore, Easter Sunday falls on April 21st.
Phew—we know, that’s a lot to take in.
It’s not often that the peak of March’s full moon and the vernal equinox occur on the same date, as is the case this month. In fact, it’s been almost 40 years since this last happened (March 1981). In March 2000, the full moon’s peak and the spring equinox were a mere four hours apart, but occurred on different calendar dates.
The upcoming March Worm Moon is also the last supermoon of 2019. Since January, each month has seen a supermoon, however this streak is coming to an end. The Full Worm Moon will appear brighter and larger in the night sky because it’s closer to Earth in its orbit than usual. The point at which the moon is closest to Earth is called “perigee.” When it’s at its furthest point from Earth, and is therefore a “micromoon,” we call this point “apogee.”
Supermoons are best viewed in darker regions where the sky isn’t flooded by city lights.
The Super Worm Moon will peak at 9:43 p.m. on March 20th, but you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of its fullness the night before and the night following. That’s the beauty of a supermoon—they’re impressive for more than just a few hours.
We cannot wait to see the Super Worm Moon take to the sky, because that means spring has sprung. Welcome back warmth, sun, and longer days. It’s time to shed our winter layers.