The name of September’s full moon is one of the most familiar of all full moon names. Indeed, the Harvest Moon has been featured prominently in TV shows, movies, and was even famously sung about by Neil Young in his hit song Harvest Moon.
This year’s Harvest Moon will occur on Saturday, September 10 at 5:59 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. The good news is that the moon will appear full on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings.
Why This September’s Full Moon Is The Harvest Moon
Interestingly, September’s full moon isn’t always called the Harvest Moon. Instead, it’s sometimes known as the Corn Moon. Here’s why.
The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs nearest the autumnal equinox, which occurs on or around September 22 each year. Although the Harvest Moon occurs in September most years, about every three years it is in early October, according to timeanddate.
Some sources note that the name Harvest Moon comes from ancient Native American traditions. Other sources note that the name was used as early as the 700s by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic peoples.
Either way, the importance of the Harvest Moon is the same for people across the Northern Hemisphere.
Usually, the moon rises later each night. Around the autumnal equinox, however, when days start to become shorter than nights as winter approaches, something else happens.
Instead, due to the angle of the moon’s orbit and Earth’s tilt at the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon rises near sunset for several nights in a row. Since the moon is full and bright, it historically gave farmers enough extra light to finish harvesting corn in the evenings before colder weather and frosts could damage their crops, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
How To See The Harvest Moon
You can determine the exact time of moonrise, just after sunset, in your area here.
That’s important to know because you’ll want to make plans to see the Harvest Moon when it rises just above the horizon. Importantly, that’s when the full moon appears largest due to what’s called the “moon illusion.”
The moon, of course, is always the same size, but the moon illusion tricks our brains into thinking it sometimes appears larger or smaller. This is because when the moon is high in the sky, it appears small due to the vast scope of the surrounding sky, NASA explains.
On the other hand, when the moon is just above the horizon, our brains compare the moon’s size to the size of other objects on the skyline, such as trees, buildings, or water towers. Compared to those objects, the moon naturally seems enormous.
Finally, since the moon illusion occurs when the moon is low in the sky, the best place to see the Harvest Moon will be somewhere with an unobstructed view of the horizon. Large fields, parking lots, and other places that don’t have trees or buildings blocking the horizon will be good places to see the Harvest Moon at its largest and brightest.
Be sure to check out the rest of our stargazing content as well, including: