Why August's Moon Is Known as the Sturgeon Moon

By: Melanie Radzicki McManus  | 
sturgeon moon
You won't want to miss the full sturgeon moon rising on Aug. 1, especially since it's a supermoon. Darwin Fan/Getty Images

Mark your calendar for Aug. 1, 2023, to catch the most stunning of all moon phases: the full moon. More specifically, the sturgeon moon reaches peak illumination at 2:32 p.m. ET, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. But don't worry; while the sturgeon moon rises relatively early, it will be visible in the night sky until approximately 5:11 a.m. ET on Aug. 3.


Catching the August Supermoon

This year, August's sturgeon moon is also a supermoon. A supermoon — which is not an official astronomical term — is a full moon that occurs when the moon's orbit brings it closer to Earth.

Because it's closer to Earth than normal, a supermoon appears larger and brighter than regular full moons, hence its name. Every year there are three to four supermoons, and they always occur consecutively.


The sturgeon supermoon is the second of four supermoons in 2023. This month in 2023 is chock-full of lunar events; on Aug. 30, there will be a blue supermoon! It will be the largest full moon of the year.

Naming the Sturgeon Moon

The terms "full moon" and "supermoon" are easy to understand, but what the heck is a sturgeon moon? Ancient peoples gave names to each full moon, typically selecting a moniker that matched something that regularly occurred that month or season.

Some say the nickname "sturgeon moon" is derived from the fact that Native Americans found it easiest to catch the sturgeon fish swimming around the Great Lakes region and Lake Champlain (home of Champy) during August. Others believe it comes from Algonquin tribes in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, who noticed more of the prehistoric-looking fish in the lakes at this time of the year.


The freshwater lake sturgeon was an essential food source for Native American tribes living in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain regions. The oldest native fish species in the Great Lakes, the sturgeon first appeared in fossil records more than 200 million years ago. Sturgeon are also the largest native Great Lakes fish, stretching up to 9 feet long (2.7 meters) and tipping the scales at up to 275 pounds (125 kilograms).

More August Full Moon Names

While many people refer to August's full moon as the sturgeon moon, that is just one of its many nicknames. The Anishinaabe people, for example, called it the ricing moon, as August was the time to harvest their wild rice crops.

Another name is the green corn moon, given to August's full moon by Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and Creek. This name signifies the approaching ripeness of corn crops and holds cultural importance, representing a time of gratitude, communal celebrations, and spiritual renewal within these indigenous communities. Other common names include the grain moon and the red moon.


Some Northern Europeans referred to this full moon as the lightning moon, since there are frequent storms featuring thunder and lightning during late summer in their corner of the world. Another European term is corn moon, signifying the crop they were preparing to harvest.

Speaking of which, September's full moon will be the harvest moon! Every month has its own special full moon names.


Sturgeon Moon FAQ

Why is a Sturgeon Moon special?
The Sturgeon Moon is special because it carries the essence of a rich cultural tapestry, embodying the unique ways various societies interacted with and understood the natural world. Its diverse names, such as the "green corn moon" and "ricing moon," reflect the deep connections between celestial events, seasonal activities, and human traditions, offering a glimpse into the intricate interplay of nature and human culture.
Why was the Sturgeon Moon red?
The phenomenon of the "Red" Sturgeon Moon occurs due to the same atmospheric conditions that can cause vibrant sunrises and sunsets. When the moon is low on the horizon, its light passes through a thicker layer of Earth's atmosphere, scattering shorter wavelengths and allowing longer wavelengths (such as red and orange) to dominate the moon's appearance, resulting in its reddish hue.
How long does a full moon last?
The full moon phase, when the moon appears completely illuminated, typically lasts for about three days, occurring around the 15th day after the new moon.
What does the Moon symbolize for the indigenous peoples?
For indigenous peoples, the Moon often symbolizes a guiding celestial force intertwined with their cultural, spiritual, and practical lives. It serves as a marker for seasonal activities, a source of cultural myths and stories, and a representation of the interconnectedness between nature and their communities.
How rare is a full supermoon?
A full supermoon, where the moon appears larger and brighter due to its closer proximity to Earth, is a relatively frequent occurrence, happening several times a year. However, the extent of its "super" appearance can vary based on the moon's exact distance from Earth during its orbit.
What is the rarest moon in the world?
The "Blue Moon," a term used to describe the second full moon within a calendar month, is often regarded as one of the rarest lunar events. While not astronomically uncommon, its infrequent occurrence captured cultural fascination, giving rise to the phrase "once in a blue moon" to signify something happening only occasionally.
What is a wolf supermoon?
A "Wolf Supermoon" refers to a full moon that appears larger and brighter in the sky due to its proximity to Earth in its orbit, a phenomenon known as a supermoon. The term "Wolf Moon" is a traditional name given to the full moon in January, which coincides with the time when wolves were often heard howling in hunger in certain cultures.
What is a snow moon?
The term "Snow Moon" designates the full moon that typically occurs in February. This name originates from Native American tradition, marking the month when snowfall is often at its heaviest, highlighting the practical connection between lunar phases and seasonal changes.
What Is a strawberry moon?
A "Strawberry Moon" is the name given to the full moon that appears in June, a time when Native American tribes would gather ripe strawberries. This name beautifully reflects the cultural and natural harmony of celestial events and the seasonal rhythms of Earth's bounty.