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Tonight's Worm Moon marks the beginning of spring

The last full moon of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere – known as the “Worm Moon” – will reach peak illumination at 7:42 A.M. E.T. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. This year, the Worm Moon will coincide with another spectacular planetary phenomenon: the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky right after sunset. 

For many years, it was thought that the name of this full moon was given by Native American tribes to refer to the earthworms that appear as the soil warms up with the arrival of spring. However, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, this name may also be linked to a different type of “worms” – the beetle larvae – that start to emerge from the thawing bark of trees, as well as other winter hideouts during this period of the year, as testified in the 1760s by Captain Jonathan Carver, who learned about this alternative meaning when visiting the Naudowessie (Dakota) and other Native American tribes.

While some other names this full moon is known by also refer to the appearance (or reappearance) of certain animals at the end of winter – such as the Eagle Moon, the Goose Moon (Alonquin, Cree), or the Crow Comes Back Moon (Northern Ojibwe) – yet others point to different signs of the season, including: the Sugar Moon (Ojibwe), marking the time when the sap of sugar maples begins to flow; the Wind Strong Moon (Pueblo), referring to the strong winds characteristic of this period; or the Sore Eyes Moon (Dakota, Lakota, Assiniboine), highlighting the blinding sunrays reflecting off the melting snow. 

In Christianity, this moon is known as the Lenten Moon if it occurs before the spring equinox – and corresponds with Lent, the traditional period of fasting preceding Easter – or the Paschal Full Moon if it occurs after the spring equinox. In the Hebrew tradition, it is related to the celebration of Purim, a religious holiday marking the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, in Hinduism it is linked to the feast of Holi (also known as the Festival of Colors), celebrating the victory of good over evil and the beginning of spring, and in Buddhism, it corresponds with Māgha Pūjā, celebrating a gathering of the Buddha with 1,250 of his first disciples that symbolizes the creation of an ideal, exemplary community.

Although the Worm Moon will be the most visible if the skies are clear, stargazers who get a bit of rain on Monday or Tuesday night might also get a glimpse of a moonbow, a phenomenon similar to a solar rainbow that is produced by moonlight when it is refracted through water droplets in the air. Since moonbows are only visible when a full moon is low in the sky, they may be visible after sunset, when the sky is dark.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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