Can You Stargaze With a Full Moon? (The Problem + Quick Tips)

No matter which celestial objects you want to see, the moon will always be a factor.

In fact, its phases make a huge difference in what and how you’ll observe. 

Here’s whether you can stargaze with a full moon

The short answer is no, because a full moon is the brightest phase. In fact, the full moon is so bright that its glare drowns out most stars, making it a poor time for stargazing but a great time to view the moon itself. For all other celestial objects, it’s best to stargaze within a couple days before or after a new moon, instead.

If you are interested in observing other objects from space, besides our moon itself, then a full moon will make it difficult. As such, let us see why a full moon is terrible for stargazing, how its phases can influence your experience, and which moon phase stargazers should hold out for.

Why A Full Moon Is Bad For Stargazing

A full moon is very illuminated, which makes the sky appear to be washed out, and few stars seem to be present in the sky. The sky’s brightness while the full moon is active is approximately 18.0 per square arcsecond. The Milky Way is either transparent or even gone entirely, and a galaxy such as Andromeda Galaxy is hard to see, if not impossible.

Don’t forget that stargazing’s worst enemy is light pollution, so a full moon clearly doesn’t help, even if you have clear dark skies, as moonlight acts exactly like light pollution. Fainter stars are also affected by the full moon, as it drowns their light.

With all of this taken into consideration, probably the only thing worth viewing during a full moon is the moon itself, and nothing else, sadly, but it’s still a wonderful experience in itself! Let’s see how the full moon affects a telescope in comparison to the naked eye.

How The Moon Affects A Telescope Vs. Naked Eye

A full moon seems to be one-dimensional and flat due to the Sun shining straight on it. Through binoculars, the moon is almost blinding, and it washes out a lot of spectacular entities from the sky.

In other words, the glare of the moon obstructs the telescopic sights of deep-sky objects. With the elusive light of nebulae, where stars are born or they die, the far off galaxies become almost invisible.

Depending on the moon phase and your stargazing preferences, you can enjoy just the moon itself or everything around it.

Just like in the case of telescopes, to the naked eye, the full moon has the same negative impact.

If you want to have a good stargazing experience, try to avoid the moon to the greatest extent possible. The most fantastic option is to choose a night with a new moon.

The Best Moon Phase For Stargazing

The phase of the moon is one of the most important things when going stargazing. The right moment must be chosen wisely, as the perfect night is the one with a new moon.

The new moon occurs once every lunar cycle, and it rises around sunrise and sets with the Sun, thus not being visible at night. It is this phase in which the moon’s orbit is between Earth and the Sun, which makes the moon’s surface very dark.

You can stargaze a couple of days before, during, and after a new moon. The New moon typically occurs once every 29 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes. Here is a list of when the new moon will happen in 2020: 

  • January 24 –  4:42 pm
  • February 23 –10:32 am
  • March 24 – 5:28 am
  • April 22 – 10:26 pm
  • May 22 – 1:39 pm
  • June 21 – 2:41 am
  • July 20 – 1:33 pm
  • August 18 – 10:41 pm
  • September 17 – 7:00 am
  • October 16 – 3:31 pm
  • November 15 – 12:07 am
  • December 14 – 11:17 am

However, 2020 is almost at its end, so we have also compiled a list of when the new moon will occur in 2021. Here it is:

  • January 13 – 07:00 am
  •  February 11 – 9:05 pm
  • March 13 – 12:21 pm
  • April 12 – 05:30 am
  • May 11 – 21:59 pm
  • June 10 – 1:52 pm
  • July 10 – 04:16 am
  • August 08 – 4:50 pm
  • September 07 – 03:51 am
  • October 06 – 2:05 pm
  • November 04 – 11:14 pm
  • December 04 – 09:43 am 

The new moon might be the best option for stargazing; however, the first or last quarter or a crescent moon is also a great time to do stargazing.

Nonetheless, if you still want to observe the skies during a full moon, then your best target is the moon itself, and here is how to do it.

How To Observe More During A Full Moon

Amateur astronomers believe that the full moon’s brightness faints out everything, and there’s no reason to observe anything. If you also think that, then you might want to reconsider.

Grab your telescope during a full moon night and start exploring everything closely and thoroughly related to our natural satellite. You’ll be amazed at the various enchanting features your telescope catches.

You can also aim your telescope far from the terminator or try a moon filter to eliminate the brightness but keep the details. A full moon also means a lack of shadows.

The noticeable bright and dark areas are discrepancies in the albedo (reflectivity) of distinct parts of the moon. If you look at these contrasting regions, you will see rocks that are the results of different formations processes.

The moon is a mistress, and its beauty is not something we should take lightly! You shouldn’t skip it or take it for granted, as you might miss on many beautiful sights!

You don’t need a telescope to enjoy the moon when it is full. You can also do this with a pair of binoculars or even with the naked eye. When it comes to binoculars, they are easier to carry and assemble than telescopes.

Binoculars have evolved at nearly the same pace as telescopes, so you can actually get quite a good view with them during a full moon. You can even spot the full lunar disc.

What About A 3/4 Moon? Half Moon?

We’ve established how a full moon impacts stargazing. However, what’s the difference between a full moon’s brightness and a last quarter moon’s one? You might be inclined to say that a ¾ moon or a half moon is half as bright as a full one, but it is 1/11th as bright as a full moon in reality.

A half-moon, against all odds, is heavily shadowed even on its bright part. It takes two and a half days for a half-moon to become half as shiny as the full one.

The gibbous moon is the most common one. It appears for the half-month between the first and the last quarter. Its presence lasts for more than six hours, and it is also visible in the daytime.

To conclude, if you choose a first or last quarter or a new or crescent moon to stargaze, then you will have a great experience! However, during the full moon, you will best observe only Earth’s natural satellite.

Remember, there are many places online where you can track the moon’s phases, so check them out before going out. Happy star hunting out there!