Autumn’s arrival is marked by more than just the changing colors of leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and cooler temperatures. Sky enthusiasts are treated to an additional spectacle: the harvest moon, the final supermoon of the year, which will illuminate the night sky starting Thursday.
The moon will take on an orange and red hue, a fitting color for the season, but this is not a unique characteristic of the harvest moon. All full moons, of which there are 13 annually, appear orange.
Supermoons are full moons that occur when the moon is at its nearest point to Earth in its orbit. These moons can appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than the smallest full moons, as per NASA. The next supermoon won’t be until August of next year.
The harvest moon, also known as the corn moon among Northeast Indigenous groups, traditionally indicates the time for harvesting various summer crops. Historically, farmers have used the light from the September full moon to work late into the night.
The harvest moon’s proximity to the full harvest gives it its name, according to Noah Petro, a scientist with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project. This year’s harvest moon will seem slightly larger and brighter due to its supermoon status, but it is simply the closest full moon to the autumn equinox.
The autumn equinox, which results in nearly equal daylight and darkness across all latitudes, marks the astronomical change of seasons. This year, the harvest moon will rise about a week after the autumn equinox, from Thursday night into Friday morning, reaching its fullest at 5:57 a.m. on Friday.
The harvest moon is a spectacle that everyone can enjoy, as it will be full from sunrise to sunset. If you miss its appearance on Thursday, don’t worry. According to NASA ambassador Tony Rice, the moon will still appear nearly full in the days leading up to and following its peak.
Read more at The Washington Post.