By the light of the Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon, photo by eyesontheskies

Shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June or July
Snow time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon, for me and my gal.
~Shine On Harvest Moon, Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (1903)

The best known moon of the year (probably in large part due to that song) is the Harvest Moon. It’s the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox and is full the night of September 18th. EarthSky.org has a nice article about the Harvest Moon that explains that for all its mystique, the Harvest Moon is just an ordinary full moon:

Still, you might think the Harvest Moon looks bigger or brighter or more orange. That’s because the Harvest Moon has such a powerful mystique. Many people look for it shortly after sunset around the time of full moon. After sunset around any full moon, the moon will always be near the horizon. It’ll just have risen. It’s the location of the moon near the horizon that causes the Harvest Moon – or any full moon – to look big and orange in color.

The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect. It stems from the fact that – when you look toward the horizon – you are looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when you gaze up and overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light – that’s why the sky looks blue. The greater thickness of atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through to your eyes. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow or orange or reddish hue.

…The shorter-than-usual time between moonrises around the full Harvest Moon means no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for days in succession. In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.

You can read on for more.

Check this photo from September 2012 out bigger and see more in eyesontheskies’ Phases slideshow.

More about the harvest moon on Michigan in Pictures!

6 thoughts on “By the light of the Harvest Moon

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