Why is a full Moon so much more beautiful than at any other time of month? There’s something about seeing the whole face that makes it even more ethereal and stunning than normal.
But it’s incredibly easy to be taken by surprise when it rolls around every month. If you want to observe it with a telescope, or even just snap a picture on your smartphone, you’ll need to know when to expect the full Moon so you can plan for it.
So when is the next full Moon, and how can you photograph it? We’ve answered all of these and more below. If you’re looking for more stargazing tips, check out our complete astronomy for beginners UK guide.
When is the next full Moon in the UK?
The next full Moon can be seen on 21 September 2021. The so-called ‘Harvest Moon’ will appear for around three nights.
A full Moon happens roughly every 29.5 days, the length of one lunar cycle. You can see details of each full Moon of 2021 (including every Moon’s dedicated name) below.
28 January: Wolf Moon
27 February: Snow Moon
28 March: Worm Moon
27 April: Pink Moon (supermoon)
24 June: Strawberry Moon
24 July: Buck Moon
22 August: Sturgeon Moon
21 September: Harvest Moon
20 October: Hunter’s Moon
19 November: Beaver Moon (micro full Moon)
19 December: Cold Moon
Why does the Moon change shape?
We only see the Moon because it reflects light from the Sun. As it orbits the Earth, the amount of light it can reflect back at us changes. When the Moon goes between the Sun and the Earth, no light can reflect back at us so there is a new moon.
When the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, a full Moon occurs as the Moon’s face is fully illuminated by the Sun. During the times in between, only parts of the Moon can reflect light back to Earth.
If the Moon orbited Earth in the same plane as Earth orbits the Sun, then the Moon would block out light from the Sun every time there was a new Moon.
But this doesn’t happen because the Moon orbits at an angle of around 5 degrees compared to Earth’s orbit of the Sun. Sometimes the Moon passes through Earth’s plane of orbit and the three bodies – Earth, Moon and Sun line up.
This is called a syzygy. When a syzygy happens during a new Moon we have a solar eclipse, and a syzygy during a full Moon creates a lunar eclipse. By Abigail Beall
How can I see a Supermoon?
The Moon doesn’t orbit Earth in a circle – it has an elliptical orbit. This means the distance between the Earth and the Moon varies. The closest point in the orbit is called perigee and the furthest away point is apogee.
When a full Moon happens at the same time the Moon is closest to the Earth – less than 360,000km (223,694 miles) away – this is a supermoon. The next supermoon will be on 28 March 2021. AB
How can I photograph the moon at night?
To capture the Moon with your phone, you might need to play around with your camera settings. Don’t use a flash, turn down the ISO and set your focus to 100.
If you are unsure how to make these changes, download a night photography app (such as NightCap – available on the App Store, £2.99) which will allow you greater control over the camera settings than your usual camera app.
Read more about the Moon:
If you’re using a digital camera, start with an aperture of f/11 to f/16 and a shutter speed of between 1/60th and 1/125th of a second. A tripod will help keep your camera still and reduce any shaking from the low light conditions when you need to keep the shutter open a little longer.
To get the best pictures of the Moon you need to work out your shot, making sure you can frame the Moon depending on the scenery around you. To plan where you can see the Moon, or anything in the night sky, there is plenty of software available (like the Moon Locator app – available on Android devices, free). AB
To find more software worthy of your home screen, check out our guide to the best astronomy apps.
Does the moon rotate?
Yes, the Moon is rotating. But it is tidally locked, which means it rotates in sync with its orbit of the Earth, so for every orbit of the Earth it completes one rotation.
This means as it travels around our planet, the same side faces us the whole time. This is why we have the term ‘dark side of the Moon’, for the side we never see. In reality, that side of the Moon gets just as much sunlight as the side we see, so the correct term is the ‘far side of the Moon’. AB
What is a Blood moon and how can I see it?
During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon turns a red colour because Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light away and only the red gets through. This is called a Blood Moon. The next Blood Moon is happening on 26 May 2021. AB
Read more about the Moon: