You might not have heard of the Sturgeon Moon in August or the Buck Moon in July but chances are you’ve heard of the Harvest Moon that is appearing overhead now in September.
It’s more than just a popular song.
Harvest Moon is the name some cultures, native tribes and farmers have given to the full moon that usually appears mid to late September because it rises when the sun goes down thus giving famers more light to get the crops in.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September autumnal equinox. In 2021 that comes Sept. 22 when day and night are about equal in length. (It comes in March in the Southern Hemisphere)
You probably noticed that large golden orb already appearing above the horizon. It will be fullest and brightest Sept. 20, about 6:45 p.m. CDT. but will also appear full the following day.
If listening to TV weather reports, you are likely to hear meteorologists referencing the date as the beginning of autumnal fall but adding that meteorological fall began about 3 weeks before the September equinox on Sept. 1.
Autumnal fall ends at the December Solstice, when astronomical winter begins. but for meteorologists the fall season ends Nov. 30.
October 2020 begins and ends with special full moons.
The month begins with a full moon Oct. 1-2. In the Northern Hemisphere it is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the closest full moon to the fall equinox which in 2020 was Sept. 22.
That makes it special because even though moonrise is later each day by 50 minutes the full moon near the fall equinox takes less time to rise so there is more moonlight. For farmers that means more light to harvest crops.
Because the seasons are just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon comes in March or April.
But unlike most months, October 2020 has another full moon. That phrase once in a blue moon means that rare occasion when the moon phases complete twice in the same month.
Because October began with a full moon, the phases complete their cycle with a full moon on Oct. 31, 2020. Right. Halloween. Spooky!
If in Chicago, rain or cloudy skies may prevent you from seeing the Harvest Moon Oct. 5, but if you are elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere you should be able to see what looks like a large, orangey-toned impressive orb. (The moon also looked impressive Chicago Oct. 4 when the weather cleared).
It’s dubbed the Harvest Moon because it is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox when farmers enjoy more moonlight to finish harvesting their crops.
That’s because even though the moon typically rises 50 minutes later each fall and winter day, the moon’s orbital path is narrower in the Northern Hemisphere near the autumn equinox. That orbit makes it rise only about 35 minutes later each day.
BTW, the orange color is noticed when seeing the moon through the Earth’s atmosphere near the horizon. The moon also looks larger from that angle.