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A harvest moon.
The harvest moon is the moon at or about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox. The harvest moon is often mistaken for the modern day hunter's moon.

History

In the legend of the Harvest moon, it is said that all full moons have their own special characteristics based primarily on the whereabouts of the ecliptic in the sky at the time of year that these moons are visible. The full moons of September, October and November as seen from the northern hemisphere—which correspond to the full moons of March, April and May as seen from the southern hemispheremarker—are well known in the folklore of the sky.

Appearance

All full moons rise around the time of sunset. However, although in general the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth, the Harvest Moon and Hunter's Moon are special, because around the time of these full moons, the time difference between moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual which means that the moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N. or S. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter's or Harvest Moons. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops (or, in the case of the Hunter's Moon, hunters tracking their prey). They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name Harvest Moon.

The reason for the shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the time of the Harvest and Hunter's Moon is that the ecliptic—the plane of Earth's orbit around the sun—makes a narrow angle with respect to the horizon in the evening in autumn.

Times of Appearance

The Harvest Moon is said to come before or after the autumnal equinox. It is simply the full moon closest to that equinox. About once every four years it occurs in October (in the northern hemisphere), depending on the cycles of the moon. Currently, the latest the Harvest Moon can occur is on November 3. Often, the Harvest Moon seems to be bigger or brighter or more colorful than other moons. These effects are related to the seasonal tilt of the earth. The warm color of the moon shortly after it rises is caused by light from the moon passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of moonlight (which is really reflected white light from the sun), but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to one's eyes. Hence all celestial bodies look reddish when they are low in the sky.

The apparent larger size is because the brain perceives a low-hanging moon to be larger than one that's high in the sky. This is known as a Moon Illusion and it can be seen with any full moon. It can also be seen with constellations; in other words, a constellation viewed low in the sky will appear bigger than when it is high in the sky.

Other names

The Harvest Moon is also known as the Wine Moon, the Singing Moon and the Elk Call Moon. In American myth and folklore the full moon of each month is given a name. There are many variations, but the following list gives the most widely known names in the modern US:



The third full moon in a season with four full moons is called a blue moon, as described in the Maine Farmer's Almanac. Until recently it was commonly misunderstood that the second full moon in a month was the blue moon. However, it was recently discovered by Sky & Telescope and reported on NPR that the interpretation of a blue moon as the second full moon of the month was erroneously reported in an issue of Sky & Telescope dating back to 1946 and then perpetuated by other media.

In some cultures, individuals whose birthdays fall on or near a harvest moon must provide a feast for the rest of the community.

See also



References



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