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HARVEST MOON: Explaining The Name & Unique Appearance...

According to folklore, every full Moon has a special name.  There's the Wolf Moon, the Snow Moon, the Worm Moon,  the Sprouting Grass Moon,  the Flower Moon,  the Strawberry Moon, the Thunder Moon,  the Sturgeon Moon, the Harvest Moon, the Hunter's Moon, the Beaver Moon, and the Long Night's Moon. Each name tells us something about the season or month in which the full Moon appears.

This month's full moon is the Harvest Moon. It will occur at 2:40 p.m. EDT on Thursday October 5th, however, as is typically the case, the moon will appear full for a few days before and after that day.

Video Credit: ScienceAtNASA

The Harvest Moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox. It's the first time since 2009 that it has occurred during the month of October as opposed to September. 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 had to work after sundown.  Moonlight became an essential part of farming and, so, the Harvest Moon was born. 

119_HarvestMoon-preview_thumb_00002 (1)

Image Credit: NASA

There's more to the Harvest Moon, however, than just an old-fashioned name. Throughout the year the moon rises, on average, about 50 minutes later each day. But near the autumnal 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.


Image Credit: NASA

This makes a huge difference. For several nights in a row, the moon rises at about the same time as sunset. This allows clouds and dust to at times, add a yellow/orange glow to the low-hanging moon. Not only that, they are swollen to an 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, it often looks like a giant pumpkin. At sundown on October 5th (sunset: 7:19 PM EDT), go outside, face east, and try enjoy the Harvest Moon. Skies should be broken meaning clouds may block the view for some of our area, but it's worth a shot. If you take any cool pictures, post them on my Facebook page! (scroll down for the link)



-Rick DeLuca




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