Wolf Moon: The first full moon of 2023 reaches peak illumination tonight
Sitting at the furthest point from the Earth on its elliptical path, the first full moon of 2023 just so happens to be a ‘micromoon’, and will reach peak illumination just after 11PM tonight.
We’re just one short week into the year and, astrologically speaking, 2023 is off to something of a rough start. Mercury’s been in retrograde — and will be until Wednesday 18 January — and Mars retrograde will continue until Thursday 12 January. To put it plainly: emotions have been at an all time high.
For those among us interested in stargazing, moon watching, and the deeper meaning of our place in the wider universe, the first full moon of the year is considered quite the occasion.
Once the sun sets this evening, cast your gaze upwards and you’ll see the Wolf Moon cast itself against the night sky. Reaching peak illumination at precisely 11.09PM, this month’s big lunar event is a ‘micromoon’. Essentially, this means that the moon will sit at the further possible point from the Earth on its elliptical path, which is about 252,600 miles. In astrological terms, this point in the moon’s orbit is known as an ‘apogee’.
Each month, the moon reaches the lunar phase wherein it appears fully illuminated from the Earth’s perspective. During this phase, the moon is located on the exact opposite side of the Earth to the sun, which makes the face of the moon be lit up by the sun’s rays.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, January’s full moon is known as the ‘Wolf Moon’ because wolves were more likely to be heard howling at this time. While it was traditionally believed that these howls indicated hunger, we now know that these vocalisations from the wolves can be used to coordinate hunting, locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, and define their territory.
This full moon — which follows the winter solstice — is also often referred to as the ‘Moon after Yule’, after the ancient festival.
Always a time of release and letting go of unwanted energies, each full moon offers its own specific feel, depending on what’s going on in the cosmos. Opposing Mercury retrograde and coming together in harmony with Uranus retrograde, this full moon in Cancer encourages us to unburden ourselves, and release any and all unwanted emotional weight as we embrace the new year.