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Beaver Moon 2013 and the Leonid Meteor Shower: What You Need to Know

By Michele Berger
Published: November 15, 2013

It’s time for another full moon this weekend. November’s is known most commonly as the Beaver Moon, but it’s also been called the Frosty Moon or even the Hunter’s Moon (though that’s typically how October’s is referred to).

The Beaver Moon peaks overnight Sunday, Nov. 17. It’s part of a trio of night-sky wonders this weekend, along with the Leonid meteor shower and prime viewing of Comet ISON.

According to folklore, the Beaver Moon gets its name for one of a few different reasons, both having to do with the dam-building, nocturnal rodents with the oar-shaped tails. The Old Farmer’s Almanac postulates that it is called the Beaver Moon because this month was just the right moment to set beaver traps before the winter freeze. But according to National Geographic, it could also be attributed to the “heavy activity of beavers building their winter dams.”

(MORE: 10 Amazing Facts about the Moon)

The full moon is bright — though magnitudes dimmer than the sun, according to Space.com — so it may overshadow the Leonid meteor shower, also peaking Sunday. “A full moon will shine all night long, making 2013 an unfavorable year for watching this meteor shower,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab reports.

Even still, if you’re a die-hard stargazer and you try to watch for the meteors, which radiate from the constellation Leo, expect about 15 meteors per hour, according to NASA. They’ll be traveling at around 44 miles per second. “As a rule of thumb,” adds EarthSky, “the Leonids intensify after midnight, and the greatest numbers fall just before dawn.” The site recommends waking up a few hours early for best viewing.

As for Comet ISON, it’s currently inside Earth’s orbit, meaning it’s visible through binoculars (and will be just 730,000 miles above on Thanksgiving Day). So if the moon blocks the Leonids, try seeking out ISON. Just beware of the moon’s namesake; they can grow up to 40 pounds and get to be three feet long — and they prefer to work at night. 

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