Wolf Moon: January full moon significance explained

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When the moon is located on the opposite side of Earth to the sun a full moon appears as this is the point at which its face can be fully illuminated. The first full moon of 2022 is known as the Wolf Moon and it will peak in brightness tonight. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is the Wolf Moon?

The origins of the Wolf Moon are linked with early Native American tribes who observed hungry wolves howling at the moon outside their camps. 

In fact, this type of behaviour was observed around the same time of year this occurrence took place.

Here, it’s thought howling wolves prowled outside their villages in the winter months to communicate with each other, be it a warning or a signal to guide other wolves to a location or prey.

How does it affect the moon’s appearance? 

As the moon will find itself directly across from the sun at a 180-degree angle it will appear full and larger in size than normal. 

This is a consequence of the moon being fully illuminated and because you can view it in its entirety. 

A phenomenon commonly referred to as the “moon illusion” will also mean that tonight’s Wolf Moon looks low in the sky.

As you are looking at the moon through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere it will appear this way.

When the moon is near the horizon you are looking at in comparison to familiar reference points such as mountains or buildings. 

Your brain automatically compares the size of the moon to those reference points, which makes it appear bigger.

In contrast, when the moon seems higher in the sky there is nothing to compare it to and as a result it appears smaller.

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