On Aug. 15, a dramatic full moon will be best seen in the west before dawn and in the east at sunset.

By Jamie Carter
August 14, 2019

If you’re out and about this week don’t miss the chance to see one of the astronomical highlights of summer as a full moon rises this Thursday. Our satellite reaches its full phase on Aug. 15, an event that’s popularly called the Full Sturgeon Moon. With it comes two chances on Thursday for North Americans to witness a spectacular sight of a full moon in twilight close to dawn or sunset.

Why is it called the Full Sturgeon Moon?

It’s a name derived from a Native American tribe that used to track the seasons using the Moon. At this time of year the sturgeon fish, North America's largest lake fish, used to be caught in the Great Lakes, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac (it’s now critically endangered). The Full Green Corn Moon, Full Barley Moon, Wheat Cut Moon, Blueberry Moon, and Blackberry Moon are other names that have been given to August’s full moon by various tribes, again to indicate the harvest time for those crops.

When is the Sturgeon Moon?

The Moon will be 100% illuminated at precisely 12:29 p.m. UTC on Thursday, Aug. 15, which is 8:29 a.m. EDT and 5:29 a.m. PDT. That means that moon-viewers should get up early and watch a moonset in the western sky if they want to see as close to a full moon as possible. However, it will still look almost exactly as full at moonrise later that day.

Credit: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

When is the best time to look at the Full Sturgeon Moon?

It’s always best to look at a full moon as it rises or sets. Of course, you can look at it at any time of night. After all, the very definition of a full moon is that it rises close to sunset, shines all night, and sets at sunrise the next morning. However, observing a full moon in darkness when it’s high above the horizon is a mistake. It’s so bright, and gives off such a powerful glare, that it’s very difficult to look at for more than a split second. Instead, catch it as it rises or sets and you’ll see the full moon as a delicate orange and yellow disc, with a muted brightness, that’s easy to look at for about 20 minutes. You don’t need any equipment, but a pair of binoculars will give you an incredible view of the full moon’s intriguing surface features.

How to look at the Full Sturgeon Moon at moonset

In New York, the moon will set in the west 99.9% illuminated at 5:57 a.m EDT on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, which is nine minutes before sunrise. In Los Angeles, the moon will set in the west at 6:15 a.m. PDT precisely as the sun rises. Find yourself an observing position with a good view low to the western horizon for an unforgettable sight, clear skies allowing.

How to look at the Full Sturgeon Moon at moonrise

Later in the day on Aug. 15 is probably the most popular time to look for the moonrise. This time, get somewhere with a good view low to the eastern horizon. In New York, the moon will rise at 8:21 p.m. EDT exactly 27 minutes after sunset, while in Los Angeles, it will rise at 8:10 p.m. PDT, precisely 30 minutes after sunset.

How to see the Belt of Venus

When you’re looking for the Full Sturgeon Moon and if there’s a clear sky, you may notice a pink band glowing in the west just before sunrise and in the east just after sunset. Only visible in twilight, this atmospheric phenomenon about 10–20° above the horizon is called the Belt of Venus. It’s caused by the atmosphere reflecting light from the sun, which always appears red when it’s rising or setting.

When is the next full moon?

September’s Full Moon is called the Full Harvest Moon or the Full Corn Moon. It will occur at 9:33 p.m. PDT on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 in Los Angeles and at 12:33 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept.14, 2019. Consequently this full moon will be visible while 100% illuminated to the whole of North America, though technically on different days.