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Full moon on January 23-24, 2016

Full moonrise, above, by Mohamed Laaifat Photographies in Normandy, France.

Tonight – January 23, 2016 – the moon is full. This full moon falls on January 24 at 1:46 Universal Time. Although the moon turns full at the same instant worldwide, the clock time – and possibly the date – differ by time zone. For the mainland United States, the moon reaches the crest of its full phase on this Saturday evening on January 23 at 8:46 p.m. EST, 7:46 p.m. CST, 6:46 p.m. MST or 5:46 p.m. PST.

The January 2016 full moon counts the second full moon after the December solstice. In North America, we often this full moon the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon or Hunger Moon.

Astronomically speaking, the moon is full at the moment that it’s most opposite the sun in its orbit (180o from the sun in celestial or ecliptic longitude). For general reference, however, we can say the moon is full all night tonight, lighting up the nighttime from dusk until dawn.

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The January 4, 2015 rising full moon in Italy, via Osservatorio Astronomico Università di Siena.

The January, 2015, rising full moon in Italy, via Osservatorio Astronomico Università di Siena.

Elsewhere around the world, the moon reaches the crest of its full phase at different times on the clock. Looking at the worldwide map below, you can see that the full moon comes at midnight for the Atlantic Ocean, noon for the Pacific Ocean, sunset (January 23) in Alaska and sunrise (January 24) in Asia. All these places will see a full-looking moon lighting up the sky tonight from dusk until dawn.

But to see the moon at the instant of full moon, the moon has to be above your horizon on the nighttime side of the world.

In both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the January sun – unlike the January full moon – rises south of due east and sets south of due west. In the Northern Hemisphere, these far-southern risings and settings of the sun give us the short days of winter. South of the equator, the same far-southern sunrises and sunsets bring long summer days. Meanwhile, the full moon lies opposite the sun, mirroring the sun’s place in front of the backdrop stars for six months hence.

And that’s why tonight’s moon – like the sun in summer – will follow a high path across the sky as seen from the northern part of the globe – and a low path as seen from the southern.

This January full moon rises north of due east around sunset, climbs highest in the sky around midnight and sets north of due west around sunrise.

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the January 2016 full moon (2016 January 24, at 1:46 Universal Time).

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the January 2016 full moon (2016 January 24, at 1:46 Universal Time).

Beginning around January 20 - through mid-February - you can see five bright planets at once in the predawn sky.

In late January – through mid-February – you can see five bright planets at once in the predawn sky. We haven’t been able to see five planets simultaneously since 2005. Read more.

Bottom line: Watch the full moon shine from sundown to sunup on the night of January 23, 2016.

Bruce McClure

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