It's one of nature's most arresting sights: a full moon slowly rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. Yet few people bother to look at this highlight of the lunar month.
November's full moon is known as the Beaver Moon, or sometimes the Hunter's Moon or the Frost Moon, and its rising this year is extra special because the moon will be closer to Earth than usual. This slightly bigger, brighter full moon is sometimes called a “supermoon.”
When is the full moon in November?
Though it will look very bright for a few days on either side, the moon is only full when it's precisely opposite the sun, which will illuminate all of its Earth-facing side.
This moon phase will happen at 5:23 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. That's 1:23 a.m. in New York (EDT), 12:23 a.m. in Chicago (CDT), 11:23 p.m. on Friday, November 3 in Salt Lake City (MDT), 10:23 p.m. in Phoenix and Los Angeles (MST & PDT) and 9:23 p.m. in Anchorage (AKDT).
However, that's not when to look at the full moon. By the time it's risen high into the night sky, it's too bright to comfortably look at.
A far better time to observe the moon is as it rises, which it will do on November 3, at the same time as sunset. As well as being much dimmer, it will appear orange – for the same reason a rising or setting Sun looks orange – though a rising full moon is far paler.
This highlight of the lunar month is a gorgeous sight, not least because the moon will appear impressively large as it rises. Not because it's a supermoon — the difference in apparent size is negligible — but because of the so-called “moon illusion” perspective, where things look bigger when they're viewed close to the horizon.
Why is it called the Beaver Moon?
November's full moon comes as the temperatures start to drop in North America, where it's become known as the Beaver Moon.
It's a name from Native Americans and early colonists that indicates that November was when they needed beaver furs to survive the coming winter months. They therefore laid beaver traps in rivers under moonlight, taking advantage of when the animals were at their most active.
Additional November Moon Names
The many Native American tribes all had different names for various full moons to track the passing of the year. The Cherokee on the East Coast and the Carolinas called November's Full Moon the nu-da-de-qua, or Trading Moon, because it was a time when much trade was done between tribes for goods, while the Kalapuya in the Pacific North-West called it alangitapi, which translates as “moving inside for winter.”
Since it arrives at a time of year when it's getting colder and just before the first frosts and freezes, there are many other Native American names that associate it with cold. The Assiniboine of the Northern Plains called it cuhotgawi, or the Frost Moon, while the Haida tribe in Alaska termed it the Snow Moon.
November's Full Moon has also sometimes been referred to as the Hunter's Moon, because it illuminates prey at night.
Whatever you call it, the rising full moon on November 3 will be a beautiful sight.
And there will be more reasons to gaze up at the sky in November: The Leonid meteor shower will peak on November 17.