Church of the Hunter’s Moon
October 16, 2013
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights around October 18, 19 and 20. Around all of these nights, you’ll see a bright round moon in your sky, rising around the time of sunset, highest in the middle of the night. This procession of moonlit nights is what characterizes a Hunter’s Moon.
…the full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon sometimes falls in September and sometimes falls in October. So the Hunter’s Moon sometimes falls in October and sometimes in November.
But the Hunter’s Moon is also more than just a name. Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the full moonrises unique around this time. Here’s what happens. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox – either a Harvest or a Hunter’s Moon – the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises only about 30 to 35 minutes later daily for several days before and after the full 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 Hunter’s Moon. These early evening moonrises are what make every Hunter’s Moon special. Every full moon rises around sunset. After the full Hunter’s Moon, you’ll see the moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset for a few days in a row at northerly latitudes.
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Lots more moon fun on Michigan in Pictures!