The First Full Day of Fall Will End With a Spectacular Harvest Moon (Video)
Coming just after the fall equinox, sunset on Sunday and Monday are both great chances to watch September's full moon appear on the eastern horizon.
Is September's Harvest Moon the most famous full moon of the year? OK, so it's no Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse, but as the full moon that occurs closest to the fall equinox, there's something special about our shining satellite on Sunday and Monday.
So what is a Harvest Moon and how can you see it? Here's everything you need to know.
Why is September's full moon called the Harvest Moon?
It’s all about timing. Every 27.3 days, moon's orbit puts Earth between it and the sun, which makes the moon's surface as fully illuminated as possible, as seen from Earth. The Harvest Moon’s intense brightness means that farmers have historically been able to work in the fields late at night gathering in September’s crops.
For the same reason the Harvest Moon has also been called the Corn Moon. However, it's not just about the brightness of the moon, but when it rises and sets. During a full moon — and for a day or so on either side — our satellite rises above the eastern horizon close to when the sun sets in the west, and shines all night, sinking in the west as the sun rises in the east the next morning.
When is the Harvest Moon?
The Harvest Moon 2018 occurs at precisely 10:53 p.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. On that day, the sun will set in the west at New York City at 6:49 p.m. EDT and the Harvest Moon will rise in the east at 7:01 a.m. 99 percent illuminated. It will be visible all night long, setting at 07:03 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, September 25. The sun will rise at 06:46 a.m. EDT.
How to watch the Harvest Moon
Due to it being so close to the fall equinox, there are a couple of opportunities to catch the Harvest moon. Normally, the moon rises around 50 minutes later each day. However, in the week or so around the fall equinox, celestial mechanics shorten that to about half an hour. So you can just as easily look at an almost-full moon close to sunset on Sunday, Sept. 23, when it rises at 6:33 p.m. EDT, just before sunset at 6:51 p.m. EDT.
How to see the Harvest Moon
The Harvest Moon, as with all full moons, will be best observed at moonrise and moonset, which is close to sunset and sunrise, respectively. That's because once the moon has risen around 10 degrees above the horizon, it's way too bright to observe comfortably.
Although it is possible to get a moon filter for a small telescope, all full moons give off way too much glare to look at easily for long with the naked eye. However, before it rises above 10 degrees in the sky in the east, it's a pale orange color, which then turns to pale yellow before brightening. This is the best time to look at it, not only because you will be able to see more detail, but because it's so low in the sky it’s likely to be visible between buildings, or above mountains. It just makes for a more interesting sight. For the same reasons, a full moonset is also an arresting sight.
When is the next full moon?
The next full moon will occur on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 at 12:45 p.m EDT, precisely 27.3 days after the Harvest Moon. October's full moon is often called the Hunter's Moon because Native Americans and European settlers used to use the moonlight to go hunting in preparation for a long winter. However, you may be tempted to look up at our satellite a few days before the Hunter's Moon because Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 is International Observe The Moon Night.