I hope you have been enjoying the bright moonlight the last several nights with the clear skies around. The moon is actually full early Tuesday morning, just a few hours before sunrise. We call the fall moon that hits closest to the Autumnal Equinox the “harvest moon”. Most of the time it occurs in September but once in a great while it falls in early October.
The harvest moon is named as such because the extra light it offers in the evening was beneficial to Native Americans and early farmers before the days of headlights on tractors and other harvest machinery. I find it hard to believe that you could see well enough in the moonlight for the harvest to be efficient, but I suppose a few things could be gathered. I know that when I try to harvest things in my garden and fields when it is even partially dark, everything is harder. It’s easier to trip and fall. It’s easy to miss some of the crop you are trying to pick. And besides, the mosquitoes get more annoying after dark.
The full moon can often have an orange cast as it first rises on the east horizon and can look quite large. Of course, it’s no bigger than it is when it is sitting high in the sky. Some experts say your brain tricks you into thinking the moon is bigger when it is lower in the sky, say next to a tree or building. Your brain tries to tie the moon in with the close objects and amplifies the size.
Actually, this harvest moon may look a bit smaller than usual as it gets up higher because the moon in nearing apogee. This is when the moon is at its farthest point from earth in its orbit. Well, the weather should be pretty cooperative for moon watching with just scattered clouds the next two nights. So enjoy the sight and light!
This post was written by Tony Schumacher on September 12, 2011