For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
The full Wolf Moon rises on Friday,January 6, 2023. It’s also a micromoon! How is that different from a supermoon? Learn what’s special about the January full Moon!
When to See January’s Full Moon
January’s full Wolf Moon reaches peak illumination on Friday, January 6, at 6:09 P.M.EST. At a full Moon, the Moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth to the Sun so the face of the Moon facing towards the Earth will be completely illuminated by the Sun’s rays. Look for the Moon to rise from the northeastern horizon around sunset that evening.
Consult our Moonrise Calculator to see what time you can expect to catch a glimpse of the first full Moon of 2023!
January’s full Moon is a “Micromoon” this year. Think of this term as the opposite of a “Supermoon.” It simply means that the full Moon is at its farthest point from Earth (not the nearest point). In astronomical terms, we call this “apogee.” Specifically, January’s Micro full Moon is about 252,600 miles from Earth.
Why is the Moon nearer or farther (in this instance) from Earth? Simple: The Moon orbits Earth in an elliptical path. One side is nearer to Earth and one side is farther. This distance does affect the Moon’s size and brightness, although it’s probably not that visible to the naked eye. The perceived size of the Moon from Earth is more related to the “Moon Illusion” and how close the Moon appears to the horizon; in this case, it’s high above the horizon so it may not appear to loom over us the way it appears when it’s near the horizon.
Look up at the full Moon on the 6th (or a day earlier or later)! What do you think?
The sunset embers smolder low,
The Moon climbs o’er the hill,
The peaks have caught the alpenglow,
The robin’s song is still.
–John L. Stoddard (1850–1931)
Why Is It Called the Full Wolf Moon?
The full Moon names used by The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, not just to the full Moon itself.
The Wolf Moon
It’s thought that January’s full Moon came to be known as the Wolf Moon because wolves were more likely to be heard howling at this time. It was traditionally believed that wolves howled due to hunger during winter, but we know today that wolves howl for different reasons. Howling and other wolf vocalizations are generally used to define territory, locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, and coordinate hunting.
Alternative January Moon Names
Another fitting name for this full Moon is the Center Moon. Used by the Assiniboine people of the Northern Great Plains, it refers to the idea that this Moon roughly marks the middle of the cold season.
Other traditional names for the January Moon emphasize the harsh coldness of the season: Cold Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Moon (Cree), Freeze Up Moon (Algonquin), and Severe Moon (Dakota). Hard Moon (Dakota) highlights the phenomenon of the fallen snow developing a hard crust.
Canada Goose Moon (Tlingit), Great Moon (Cree), Greetings Moon (Western Abenaki), and Spirit Moon (Ojibwe) have also been recorded as Moon names for this month.