Loved by late-night hikers, it's the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox.

By Jamie Carter
September 11, 2019

Is the Harvest Moon your favorite full moon of the year? If you’re a fan of late-night walks, and particularly if you love watching one of nature’s greatest sights — the majestic rise of a pale full moon — get ready to be outdoors at dusk this Friday as the whole of North America witnesses a stunning Harvest Moon shining all night long.

Why is it called the Harvest Moon?

September’s full moon is variously called a Harvest Moon, Corn Moon, and Barley Moon, all of those names deriving from the seasonal crop-gathering that traditionally takes place in September in North America. However, the term Harvest Moon — thought to be called so because it helps farmers work late into the night under the moonlight — applies to the full moon that’s nearest to the Fall Equinox. That occurs on Monday, Sept. 23 in 2019, just 10 days after the full moon.

When is the Harvest Moon?

The Harvest Moon will become full at precisely 9:33 p.m. PDT on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles and at 12:33 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Consequently, this full moon will be visible while 100% illuminated to the whole of North America. More importantly for observers, the Harvest Moon will rise in the east around sunset, shine all night long, and sink in the west around sunset.

When best to look at the Harvest Moon?

Although it’s technically possible to look at the Harvest Moon when it’s 100% lit, that’s not the time to observe it. In fact, if you do, you won’t be able to see much else for several minutes because a full moon emits a very bright glare when it's high in the night sky. Instead, try to watch it as it appears on the eastern horizon at around sunset on Friday, glowing a pale orange and very easy to gaze at.

In Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 13, sunset is at 7:02 p.m. and the moon will rise at 7:14 p.m., while in New York sunset is at 7:08 p.m. and moonrise is at 7:20 p.m. You can enter your location here to get exact timings for where you are.

If you’re likely to be up early on Saturday, Sept. 14, look west at 6:55 a.m. from Los Angeles to see the Harvest Moon setting (sunrise is at 6:36 a.m.). From New York, the sun will rise at 6:35 a.m. and the Harvest Moon-set can be witnessed in the west at 6:46 a.m.

The Harvest Moon will appear to be full for about three days, but only on ‘full moon day’ on Friday it does it rise and set in-sync with the sun.

Getty Images

Why the Harvest Moon is also a ‘micro moon’

Have you ever even heard of a micro moon? It's the opposite of a supermoon. While a supermoon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth during its slightly elliptical orbit, and so appears larger than average, a micro moon is when it’s furthest away, so smaller than average. However, it’s only when either a micro moon or superman coincides with a full moon that the terms get used. So officially, at 406,377 km from Earth, Friday sees a Harvest Micro Moon. A full micro moon doesn’t next occur until Oct. 1, 2020.

When is the next full moon?

Every 29 days the moon completes an orbit of Earth, so on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019 there will be another full moon. November’s full moon is called the Hunter’s Moon. That’s an appropriate name given that the night skies in the weeks afterward will soon be graced by that most iconic of all constellations, the three stars — Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka — that make up the belt of Orion, the Hunter.

The arrival of the Harvest Moon, and soon of Orion, are sure signs that fall is coming.