2020 will feature 13 full moons, including 2 supermoons and a rare blue moon

In this July 31, 2015 file photo, a blue moon rises behind the torch of the Statue of Liberty seen from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

2019 was a kind year for sky watchers. There were supermoons during each of the year's first three months, with January also yielding a total lunar eclipse.

Well 2020 will try not to be outdone. Of the year's 13 full moons, two will be "super"; one on March 9 (the worm moon) and the other on April 8 (the pink moon). 

And yes, 13 full moons means that one month will have two, the second of which becomes a blue moon by definition. The month? October, with the blue moon falling on Halloween night - spooky, eh?

Blue moons occur once every two or three years, but one falling on Halloween is rarer than rare. After this year, trick-or-treaters will need to wait until Oct. 31, 2039 to see the next Halloween blue moon.

What is a supermoon?

The name supermoon was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. It is the name given to a moon that becomes full (or new, but the only the full ones garner media attention) when its orbit is closer than average to the Earth. This makes them appear slightly bigger and as much as 30% brighter than a regular full moon.

Supermoons occur much more often than blue moons. But the exact frequency depends on the exact definition of a supermoon, which varies quite a bit in the astronomical community.

Nolle's definition is "a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (or perigee)." It seems that the majority of astronomers say a supermoon is one that tracks less than 223,000 miles from the Earth during its full phase. Others set the number in kilometers at 360,000 (which translates to a more precise mileage of 223,694).

Regardless of the exact cutoff, many experts say the average star gazer won’t notice the difference in size nor brightness.

April's full moon is notable as it cracks the list of closest supermoons between 2010 and 2020.  It will come a mere 221,772 miles (356,907 km) from Earth! 


Dates of each full moon in 2020:

Date Moon Nickname
        Jan. 10        Wolf Moon
 Feb. 9 Snow Moon
March 9   Worm Moon *supermoon
 April 7 Pink Moon *supermoon
 May 7 Flower Moon
 June 5 Strawberry Moon
 July 5 Buck Moon
 Aug. 3 Sturgeon Moon
 Sept. 2 Corn Moon
Oct. 1 Harvest Moon
Oct. 31 Blue Moon
Nov. 30 Beaver Moon
 Dec. 29 Cold Moon
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