It’s officially the spooky season, and what better way to enjoy it than watching this month’s most spellbinding moon? On Thursday, stargazers — or really, anyone who happens to look up — will be treated to a bewitching “Harvest Moon.” Sure, it happens every year, but this one’s legitimately a little unusual.
The Harvest Moon gets its name from old American folklore. Before people had electricity, farmers relied on the bright light of this moon to harvest their crops. In the states, many fruits and vegetables ripen in the early fall, so the Harvest Moon signified that these plants were probably ready for picking.
Usually, the Harvest Moon falls in September. But the “Harvest Moon” title is specifically given to the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and this year, that event took place on September 22nd. The full moon on October 5th is closest to the equinox, hence why it’s the Harvest Moon for 2017. An October Harvest Moon is a phenomenon that happens once every three years, so it’s special but not exactly rare.
Truthfully, every full moon has a quirky name from the Old Farmer’s Almanac: there’s the Strawberry Moon, the Beaver Moon, and many others. But the Harvest Moon is actually a smidge more special.
“Usually, throughout the year, the Moon rises an average of about 50 minutes later each day,” The Farmer’s Almanac reports. “But near the autumnal equinox, the difference is only 30 minutes. Additionally, the Full Harvest Moon rises at sunset and then will rise very near sunset for several nights in a row because the difference is at a yearly minimum.”
Tomorrow, the sun will set at 6:31pm EDT in New York City. No sweat if you’re not looking up at the millisecond the Sun sets as you’ll be able to see this beautiful moon all night long, barring some cataclysmic horror. Apocalypse or not, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” or Van Morrison’s “Moondance” will make the perfect soundtrack for the big event.