Shine On Harvest Moon

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With the autumnal equinox set to fall on Sept. 22, the 2013 Harvest Moon will be in full bloom tonight.

The term “Harvest Moon” or “Corn Moon,” is used to describe the full moon that occurs closest to fall’s equinox. For skywatchers in North America, the full moon is expected to rise shortly after sunset (depending on your location) on Sept. 18 and will peak at 7:13 a.m. EDT the next morning.

The Harvest Moon will be especially visible during the overnight hours, even though it won’t actually be “full” until Thursday morning.

As EarthSky explains:

No matter where you are on Earth, this full moon – and every full moon – ascends over your eastern horizon around the time of sunset. It’s always highest in the sky in the middle of the night, when the sun is below your feet. That’s because a full moon is opposite the sun. Being opposite the sun, the moon is showing us its fully lighted hemisphere, or “day” side. That’s what makes the moon look full.

However, the almost full Harvest Moon should also be visible for North American viewers on Thursday night, when the moon will turn full for observers in Asia.

The annual celestial sight was dubbed the “Harvest Moon” because its light allowed farmers in the Northern Hemisphere to harvest their crops for several hours more into the night, Farmers’ Almanac notes.

The Full Wolf Moon

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The Full Wolf Moon, the first full moon of 2013, will light up the night sky tonight (Jan. 26) at 11:38 p.m. EST.

According the the Farmers Almanac, full moon names date back to Native American tribes of a few hundred years ago who lived in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.

The Farmers Almanac states that Indians named the first moon of the year the Full Wolf Moon because of the wolf packs that howled hungrily outside their villages in the heart of winter.  It is also called the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule.

Other sources disagree and allege that “Full Wolf Moon” comes from the ancient Scottish Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, which means “wolf month”.

Whatever the derivation, few would disagree that Full Wolf Moon is a good name for the moon that illuminates the frosty white nights of midwinter.