September 28, 2023

Sundays in Space: A look at this week’s Harvest Moon

Mary Apel

Sky watchers in Mississippi can look forward to another spectacular celestial event this week as the full Harvest Moon graces the night sky. On Thursday, September 28, shortly after sunset, the Harvest Moon will make its appearance, reaching peak illumination at 4:58 am on Friday.

What makes this full moon the “Harvest Moon” is its proximity to the Autumnal equinox. While it is traditionally associated with September, there are years when it falls in October. The Harvest Moon can appear as early as September 8 or as late as October 7. Between 1970 and 2050, there are 18 instances of the Harvest Moon occurring in October. The most recent was in 2020, and the next occurrence will be in 2025.

This year’s Harvest Moon also marks the fourth consecutive “supermoon.” Supermoons are full moons that coincide with the moon’s closest approach to Earth, known as perigee, often making them appear bigger and brighter in the night sky. The series of supermoons began in July, with two in August, including the rare Blue Super Moon, and now culminating in this month’s finale.

One unique aspect of the Harvest Full Moon is its brightness, which allowed farmers to work late into the night during the peak of the harvest season. The moon’s light becomes so intense that it illuminates the fields, enabling farmers to continue their work. Moreover, unlike other times of the year when the moon rises approximately 50 minutes later each evening, the Harvest Moon appears to rise at nearly the same time every night during this season.

In the past, this late-September moonlight was a tremendous advantage for farmers engaged in manual harvesting. It provided an opportunity to cut, shock, and husk corn under the moon’s glow, working in the fields after dinner without the need for additional lighting. However, with modern agricultural practices such as choppers and corn pickers drawn by tractors, late-night harvesting has become less common. And for those who are still toiling under the moonlight, we have lights to guide our way.

Nevertheless, the Harvest Moon continues to captivate observers. Over the next several nights, look up for a minute and witness its magnificence. Despite potential cloud cover, the moon will shine brightly in the eastern sky, bringing that enchantment we all love to the early autumn nights.

And while you’re at it, check out the celestial parade as the Harvest Moon is joined in the sky by prominent planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury!

One more thing! Want to take cool pics with your smartphone? Forbes Magazine tell you how in this article.

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