Harvest Moon Rising – Don’t Miss Out the ‘Most Beautiful Full Moon’ of the Year
The Northern Hemisphere’s autumn equinox was September 22. Harvest Moon – the full moon closest to this equinox – is coming up October 5.
According to folklore, the Harvest Moon is the full Moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, the beginning of northern autumn.
In the days before light bulbs, farmers relied on moonlight to help them harvest their crops. Many crops ripen all at once in late summer and early autumn so farmers found themselves extremely busy at this time of year. They have to work after sundown. Moonlight became an essential part of farming and thus, the Harvest Moon was born.
There’s more to the Harvest Moon, however, than just an old-fashioned name. The Harvest full Moon is really special.
Throughout the year the Moon rises, on average, about 50 minutes later each day. But near the equinox, this difference shrinks to only 30 minutes. The reason is, at the beginning of autumn the Moon’s orbital path makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon.
To a non-astronomer, that might sound like celestial trivia but to sky watchers it makes a huge difference.
For several nights in a row around the time of the Harvest Moon, the Moon rises at about the same time,sunset.
And you know what happens when the Moon rises at sunset?
Low-hanging Moons are reddened by clouds and dust. Not only that, they are swollen to outlandish size by the Moon illusion, a well known but still mysterious trick of the eye, that makes low-hanging Moons seem much larger than they really are. When you add these effects together the Harvest Moon often looks like a great pumpkin
The experience is repeated for several nights in a row around the equinox.
A great pumpkin-colored Moon rising in the east is a nice way to end the day. At sundown on Oct. 5th, go outside, face east, and enjoy the Harvest Moon.
Clips, images credit: NASA/JPL, ESA/HUBBLE & ESO
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