July’s “buck moon” promises to be particularly bright because it’s the supermoon that will come closest to the Earth this year.

The buck moon will look like a full moon from Tuesday morning to Friday morning, NASA says. It will reach its peak Wednesday at 12:38 p.m. MDT, though in North America it won’t be visible until moonrise.

The prettiest views in the United States are likely to be on the West Coast, in the Great Plains and in the Midwest, according to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. CNN said a cold front will move into the southeastern part of the country Tuesday and Wednesday, which could cause thunderstorms and rain in that region — not ideal for mooning over the night sky’s beauty.

She warned the view could be obstructed by scattered thunderstorms in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, as well.

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What’s a buck moon?

According to NASA, the Maine Farmer’s Almanac in the 1930s started using Native American names for full moons. The almanac said that the Algonquin tribes of what is now the northeastern U.S. called the July full moon the buck moon, because it is in early summer that buck deer get their new velvet-covered antlers. Sometimes, NASA adds, July’s full moon is also called the “thunder moon” because of the frequent thunderstorms during that time.

The Farmer’s Almanac said the July moon has other names, as well, including “feather moulting moon,” a name given by the Cree, and “salmon moon,” which is “a Tlingit term indicating when fish returned to the area and were ready to be harvested.” Other names include “berry moon” (Anishinaabe), “moon when the chokecherries are ripe” (Dakota), “month of the ripe corn moon” (Cherokee) and “raspberry moon” (Algonquin, Ojibwe).

Super, too

As for why it’s a supermoon, this buck moon peaks less than 10 hours after it was closest to the earth in its orbit. NASA says the term “supermoon” was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and describes either a new or full moon that appears when the moon is “within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to Earth.”

Space.com reports that’s a mere 221,994 miles away this month. The Farmer’s Almanac puts the distance closer to 222,089 miles, but either way, it’s about 17,000 miles closer to Earth than its average.

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“Since we can’t see new supermoons (except when the moon passes in front of the sun and causes an eclipse), what has caught the public’s attention are full supermoons, as these are the biggest and brightest full moons of the year. Since perigee varies with each orbit, different publications use different thresholds for deciding which full moons qualify, but all agree that this full moon is a supermoon,” according to NASA.

Split seconds after the moon appears full, it will actually become a waning gibbous moon, “already many hours past its stage of full illumination,” Joe Rao reports for Space.com. But the change isn’t visible and it will look large, bright and full if clouds don’t interfere.

A waning gibbous moon comes after the fullest part of the full moon, when most of the illuminated half of the giant orb is illuminated. That’s followed by a waning crescent moon.

NASA counsels waggishly that when admiring this buck supermoon, “as usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full moon. Be safe (especially during thunderstorms), avoid starting wars and take a moment to clear your mind.”

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