Harvest Moon: Learn the Facts & Take a Night Hike under the Fall Full Moon

The Harvest Moon is coming this weekend! The moon has been waxing larger each night, and full moon is the night of September 29-30, 2012. In traditional skylore, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox came on September 22 (this past Saturday). That makes the September 29-30 full moon the Harvest Moon!

There’s also a name for the next full moon after the Harvest Moon. It’s called the Hunter’s Moon, and it’ll come this year on October 29.

Officially, the crest of the full Harvest Moon will happen on September 29, 2012 at 10:19 p.m. CDT (3:19 on September 30 UT). Depending upon your time zone, the full moon will be September 29 or 30. But the moon will appear round and full on all the nights around this full moon–the perfect time for a full moon hike! Have fun along the way by making shadow creatures and identifying sounds! Nature looks a lot different at night. See what senses are keenest at nigh! Exploring these differences with your little one’s can be an educational and playful experience.

Image Credit: Dan Bush of Missouri Skies

So don’t just look for the Harvest Moon on the night of September 29 or 30. Look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights at the end of September, 2012. If you live far enough north – for example, in the northern states, Canada or Alaska – the Harvest Moon will continue to shine from dusk until dawn into early October! This procession of moonlit nights is what characterizes the Harvest Moon.

Take this weekend to teach your little ones more about the moon phases with this fun and tasty activity:



Why is the Harvest Moon special?

Factually, Harvest Moon is just a name for the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. But the Harvest Moon is much more. Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the full moon rises unique around this time. Not to mention spectacular!

On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox, the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises only about 30 minutes later daily for several days before and after the full Harvest moon. Why? The reason is that the ecliptic – or the moon’s orbital path – makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon around the time of the autumn equinox. The narrow angle of the ecliptic results in a shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the full Harvest Moon.

These early evening moon rises are what make every Harvest Moon special. Every full moon rises around sunset. After the full Harvest Moon, you’ll see the moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset for several days in a row at northerly latitudes. The lag time between successive moon rises shrinks to a yearly minimum, as described in the paragraph above. Because of this, it seems as if there are several full moons – for several nights in a row – around the time of the Harvest Moon.

Want to know the time of moonrise in your location? Check out this Custom Sunrise Sunset Calendar tool! Once you get to that page, be sure to click the box for ‘moon phases’ and ‘moonrise and moonset times.’

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  1. […] about the Harvest Full Moon and take a night hike with your little one(s) to start Fall off right! Let’s Go Chipper for […]

  2. […] here and the evidence is all around us! From shorter days, to falling leaves, to the coming Harvest Moon–Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasonal changes! Show us your photography skills and […]

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