The Harvest Moon will peak in brightness late o Thursday night (October 1) when the Moon finds itself directly across from the Sun. The moment of full illumination will occur roughly at about 10.05pm BST, here in the UK. But if you look up at the night skies tonight, you might already think the Moon is full.
That is because to the unaided eye, the Moon appears full for about three days centred on the peak.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers said: “A Full Moon occurs when the Moon appears as a complete circle in the sky.
“We see it as a full orb because the whole of the side of the Moon facing the Earth is lit up by the Sun’s rays.
“The Moon produces no visible light of its own, so we can only see the parts of the Moon that are lit up by other objects.”
What is the meaning behind the Harvest Moon’s name?
The Harvest Moon holds a special place in the lunar calendar because it does not have a fixed month it appears in.
The Pink Moon, for example, always arrives in April and the Cold Moon always arrives in December.
Instead, the Harvest Moon is described as the closest Full Moon to the autumnal equinox.
As a result, the Harvest Moon can appear on a night in September or October.
The Moon produces no visible light of its own
Royal Observatory Greenwich
This year, the September Full Moon peaked on September 2 – a whole 20 days before the equinox on September 22.
October’s Full Moon will appear only nine days after the equinox, and as such, will be called the Harvest Moon.
Next year, the Harvest Moon will peak in the wee morning hours of September 21.
The Royal Observatory’s astronomers said: “The harvest moon is one of the most familiar Moon names and refers to the nearest full moon to the autumnal equinox.
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“The light of the Harvest Moon enables farmers to work late into the night, helping them to bring in the crops from the fields.”
But tomorrow’s Full Moon is also sometimes known as the Hunter’s Moon.
This name is believed to originate in Native American traditions as this time of year was typically dedicated to hunting for animals that fattened during the summer.
The Royal Observatory said: “Like the Harvest Moon, the Hunter’s Moon is also particularly bright and long in the sky, giving hunters the opportunity to stalk prey at night.”
Other names for this Moon include Dying Grass Moon, Blood Moon Sanguine Moon and Travel Moon.
In some parts of the world, it is also known as the Potato Harvest Moon as it corresponds to a Japanese Tsukimi festival.
In Korea, this Full Moon corresponds to the harvest festival of Chuseok.
And the Full Moon’s arrival is also linked to the Buddhist celebration of Pavarana, which marks the end of a three-month fast.
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