Since wolves used to howl outside of villages, the January full moon is frequently referred to as the “Wolf Moon.”
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the January full moon, also known as the Wolf Moon, will be visible in the United States on January 6 at 6:08 p.m. Eastern Time. In New York City, moonrise occurs at 4:17 PM The moon will rise at 4:43 p.m. Eastern Time, or about 26 minutes before sunset, in the constellation Gemini.
Full moons happen when the moon is exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. The moon looks illuminated because we see the sun’s light reflected from it, and because the moon’s rotation period is the same as its orbital period, we always see the same face of our satellite world.
Since lunar phase timing is established by the moon’s position in relation to the Earth rather than its apparent position in the sky, which varies locally, lunar phase timing is consistent worldwide. Observers in the British Isles and Portugal will see the moon become full at 11:08 p.m., while those in western continental Europe will see it at 12:08 a.m.
Time zone generally determines the hour. On January 7, observers in Pacific Time will witness the moon’s fullness at 3:08 p.m., well before moonrise, while those in Eastern Asia and Western Australia (such as Seoul and Perth) will witness the event at 7:08 a.m. local time.
The Northern Hemisphere will view the full moon comparatively high in the sky because it is on the other side of the sky from the sun; in essence, the moon is in the same position as the sun would be during the summer. This indicates that the moon reaches its highest point from New York City (and nearby latitudes) at about 76 degrees; observers in Miami, Florida, a little bit further south, will see it reach 89 degrees – almost at the zenith at 12:42 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.
The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer. At 1:10 a.m. local time on January 7, the full moon will only rise to a maximum altitude of 24 degrees in Melbourne, Australia.
On the night of the full moon, Mercury will be lost in the sun’s glare, and won’t come out again as a morning star for a few days (it starts to become visible for mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere sky watchers on about Jan 12).
Venus, however, will be just above the western horizon; at sunset it will be about 12 degrees high in the southwest in mid-northern latitudes. From New York City, it will become more easily visible about a half hour after sunset, when it is at an altitude of about nine degrees, though it will still be a challenge as the sky is still a bit light in the west.
After sunset on Jan. 6, as the sky gets dark, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars will all be visible from mid-northern latitudes across the southern sky. Saturn will be in the west, about 16 degrees above the horizon in the southwest.
Looking left (eastward) one will see Jupiter, distinct because of its brightness, about 46 degrees high in the south-southwest direction. Further east, one will spot Mars, also about 46 degrees high and just south of east in the constellation Taurus.
By 6 p.m. on January 6, the full Moon is rising in the east, with Orion’s Belt visible to the south (correctly), trying to be nearly vertical. Looking almost directly from the Moon (and allowing your eyes to adjust, as the Moon can be very bright), you may see Capella, the brightest sounding name in Auriga, the Chariot. To the right will be Mars (recognizable because of its reddish color) and right below and to its right is Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.
In the southern hemisphere, the summer stars are high in the early evening; in mid-southern latitudes (such as Santiago, Chile, Melbourne, or Cape Town), the constellations that make up Jason’s legendary ship, the Argo, are high in the southeastern sky at 10 p.m. local time.
The three constellations are Keel, the keel, Pupis, the deck, and Vela, the sail. The brightest star among them is Canopus, which will be to the right of Sirius when looking roughly due south. Further to the west (right) you can see Achernar, the star that marks the end of the river, Eridan, and if you follow the trail of stars that makes up the river bed, you can find yourself near the “upside down” Orion.
January’s full moon is often called the Wolf Moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which may date back to Native American tribes and early colonial times when wolves howled outside villages.