The Harvest Moon is set to rise this Thursday as the final supermoon of 2023, wrapping up a summer marked by big, radiant full moons.
According to Space.com, this special supermoon will be joined by a parade of planets, including the largest worlds in our solar system – Jupiter and Saturn – as well as Mercury, which is the smallest.
A supermoon is a celestial phenomenon that occurs when the moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth in its orbit. This proximity makes the moon appear larger and brighter in the night sky compared to other periods in its cycle.
This year’s last supermoon will hit its peak brilliance at approximately 6 a.m. ET on Friday after making its grand appearance on Thursday night, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. The illumination will still be visible on Friday evening.
This week’s full moon is known as the “Harvest Moon,” which is due to its proximity to the autumnal equinox which took place on September 23.
Traditionally, September’s full moon has also been known as the Corn Moon, a tribute to the end-of-summer harvests.
While the Harvest Moon typically graces us in September, every three years it shifts to October. This means that not all Corn Moons earn the title of Harvest Moon.
Those who might miss out on this week’s event need to mark their calendars for summer 2024, when the next supermoon will be visible.
The term Harvest Moon is deeply rooted in agricultural traditions. “In the days before tractors with headlights, having moonlight to work by was crucial to getting the harvest in quickly before rain caused it to rot,” explained Alan MacRobert, an editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.
The timeline of the Harvest Moon aligns with the ripening of numerous crops in late summer and early autumn.
In those days, farmers, burdened with the immense workload, had no choice but to extend their labor hours past sunset. Moonlight was their guiding light.
NASA, citing the Oxford English Dictionary, notes that the term “Harvest Moon” made its first printed appearance in 1706.
Beyond its agricultural significance, the Harvest Moon is also known for its unique characteristics.
One of the main reasons the Harvest Moon is special is due to its path across the sky. It rises during twilight for several nights in a row, which means there’s no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise.
This results in several evenings of bright moonlight early in the evening, which was traditionally helpful to farmers.
The Harvest Moon often appears orange in color as it rises. This is due to the angle at which it rises – making it seem larger on the horizon and its light having to pass through a larger portion of the Earth’s atmosphere. This scattering of light results in the orange hue.
Many cultures have harvest festivals around the time of the Harvest Moon.
For instance, in East Asia, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated around this time. It’s a time of family gatherings, moon gazing, and the consumption of mooncakes.
The Harvest Moon is a prominent fixture in various cultures’ folklore and traditions. It has been associated with both romance and mysticism in various legends.
Given its association with the time of harvest, this moon symbolizes prosperity, abundance, and preparation for the winter months.
Some believed that the Harvest Moon could bring out certain behaviors in people and animals, often attributing heightened restlessness or craziness to its appearance.
In some cultures, the Harvest Moon is seen as a symbol of fertility, with some believing that its light has special properties. Couples might try to conceive under its light.
As the Harvest Moon signifies the ending of the harvest and the impending approach of winter, some myths might focus on themes of death, rebirth, or the cyclical nature of life.
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