A Full Harvest Moon Is Coming in September

suerob/iStock via Getty Images
suerob/iStock via Getty Images

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists a special name for every month's full moon, from January's wolf moon to December's cold moon. Even if you're just a casual astronomy fan, you've likely heard the name of September's full moon. The harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and it's associated with festivals celebrating the arrival of autumn. Here's what you need to know before catching the event this year.

What is a harvest moon?

You may have heard that the harvest moon is special because it appears larger and darker in the night sky. This may be true depending on what time of night you look at it, but these features are not unique to the harvest moon.

Throughout the year, the moon rises on average 50 minutes later each night than it did the night before. This window shrinks in the days surrounding the fall equinox. In mid-latitudes, the moon will rise over the horizon only 25 minutes to 30 minutes later night after night. This means the moonrise will occur around sunset several evenings in a row.

So what does this mean for the harvest moon? If you're already watching the sunset and you catch the moonrise at the same time, it will appear bigger than usual thanks to something called the moon illusion. It may also take on an orange-y hue because you're gazing at it through the thick filter of the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs blue light and projects red light. So if you've only seen the full harvest moon around sunset, you may think it always looks especially big and orange, while in reality, any full moon will look that way when it's just above the horizon.

When to See the Harvest Moon

This year, the harvest moon will be visible the night of Saturday, September 14—about a week before the fall equinox on September 23. The moon will reach its fullest state at 12:33 a.m. ET—but if you're still convinced it's not a true harvest moon without that pumpkin-orange color, you can look for it at moonrise at 7:33 p.m. on September 13.

A Snow Moon Will Light Up February Skies

makasana, iStock via Getty Images
makasana, iStock via Getty Images

February is the snowiest month of the year in many parts of the U.S., but on February 9, consider braving the weather outside to look up at the sky. That Sunday morning, the only full snow moon of the year will be visible. Here's what you need to know about the celestial event.

What is a snow moon?

If you keep track of the phases of the moon, you may already know that the full moon of each month has its own special name. Following January's wolf moon lunar eclipse is a snow moon in February. The name snow moon is said to have originated with Native American tribes, and it refers to the heavy snowfall that hits many parts of North America in February.

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, different tribes had different names for February's full moon. The Wishram people named it the shoulder to shoulder around the fire moon and the Cherokee people called it the bone moon because animal bones were sometimes their only source of nutrition in the dead of winter. Snow moon is the name that's most commonly used by almanacs today.

When to See the Snow Moon

The moon will enter its next full phase the morning of Sunday, February 9. The snow moon will be at its fullest at 2:34 a.m. EST, but if you're not willing to stay up that late, it's still worth looking up. The previous evening—Saturday, February 8—the moon will be 99 percent illuminated on the East Coast. Check your local weather forecast and find a spot with clear skies to get the best view of the wintertime spectacle.

The Wolf Moon, 2020’s First Full Moon, Coincides With a Lunar Eclipse

kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images
kirstypargeter/iStock via Getty Images

The first full moon—known as the wolf moon, since wolves supposedly howl more during the winter when food is scarce—is going to be a little extra special this year.

What is the wolf moon eclipse?

According to Newsweek, 2020’s wolf moon coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon enters Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra. Because the penumbra is a wider, lighter shadow than the umbra, which is in Earth’s direct wake, this isn’t the most striking type of eclipse. During its peak, the moon will simply appear a little less bright. To see the characteristic reddish-orange “blood moon” of a total lunar eclipse, when the moon does pass into the Earth’s umbra, we’ll have to wait until May 26, 2021.

Where to See the Wolf Moon Eclipse

Since this Friday’s eclipse happens during the day in North and South America, most people in the U.S. won’t be able to catch the show. If you live in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Australia, however, you can see the moon in all its glorious dimness when the sun sets on Friday, January 10. Forbes reports that the eclipse will begin at 12:07 p.m. EST (5:07 p.m. UTC) and reach maximum eclipse at 2:10 p.m. EST (7:10 p.m. UTC).

If you do live in North or South America, it’s still worth a skyward glance when night falls on January 10—even a regular full moon is pretty spectacular. You’ll get a chance to see a penumbral lunar eclipse for yourself on July 5.

[h/t Newsweek]

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