Astronomy

Characteristics of the Worm Moon



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Each year, the month of March brings about warmer temperatures and a welcome relief from the harsh and bitter cold of winter. One of the earliest signs that spring has arrived is the appearance of the full moon towards the end of the month. For years North Americans have used this time to signal the end of winter.

Worm Moon and Other Names

The full moon in March goes by many names. The early English settlers named it the Lenten Moon, as it most often appeared during the Catholic season of Lent. Early North American natives referred to it as the Crow Moon because the sudden cawing of crows heard around this time, signaled the end of winter and beginning of spring. Crust Moon was another name given to the full moon in March. This was because the melting of the snow during the warm days combined with its refreezing during the frigid nights, gave it a crust-like appearance. Some of the first American colonists referred to this moon as the Sap Moon. For them, it marked the time when maple trees would need to start being tapped for sap in order to make syrup. Perhaps the best known of all the names given however, is the Worm Moon.

Why Call it the Worm Moon?

The name Worm Moon was given by the Algonquian natives and has more to do with events taking place on the earth rather than the actual moon itself. During the month of March, as the sun begins to warm the earth and melt the snow, the frozen ground starts to thaw. As this occurs, earthworms begin emerging, thus leaving castings on the ground. These castings are visible to the naked eye and look like small, curly mounds of dirt. Perhaps the most obvious sign that the worms have dug themselves up from deep below the earth's surface however, is the return of robins to the northern areas. Earthworms are a main food source for robins and their abundance can only mean that the number of worms is once again plentiful. It is for this reason that the last full moon in March is referred to as the Worm Moon.

Appearance

The appearance of the Worm Moon does not really differ a whole lot from any other full moon throughout the year. It is often difficult to get a good view of it however, and there are several reasons for this. For starters, although spring is a time of warmer weather, it is also a wet season with an abundance of rain. Some years, the Worm Moon may not be seen at all, thanks to heavily overcast skies. A second reason has to do with changes in temperature.  While daytime temperatures during the end of March may be warm and toasty, once the sun disappears from view, the chill in the air rises and things cool down quickly. These sudden changes in temperature can create a mist or fog which would make it difficult to get a good view of the moon or stars, even if there are no clouds in the sky.

Hooray for Spring

For most people nowadays, the best thing about the Worm Moon is not the way it looks, or the return of earthworms. It is that seeing it is a reminder that the snow will soon be melting, and flowers and plants will once again start blooming as the warmer weather approaches.

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