If astronomy’s your bag then you are in for a treat this week – as we are set to witness a rare occurrence, the Harvest Moon.
Granted, it’s not rare in itself. It happens every year and it’s the ninth full moon we’ve had in 2019 alone.
What makes this one particularly special, however, is that it will be smaller than the average full moon, a whole 14 percent smaller, to be exact, making it a ‘micromoon’.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Maine Farmers’ Almanac astronomer Joe Rao said the reduced size is due to the position of the moon when it peaks.
He said: “To add to this Full Moon ‘madness’, this upcoming Full Moon very nearly coincides with apogee – that point in its orbit which places it at its greatest distance from the Earth: 252,100 miles away.
“Remember last February, when the Full Moon coincided with perigee, its closest point to Earth?
“The Moon was more than 30,000 miles closer and was accordingly branded a ‘Supermoon’.”
And what’s more, depending on where you live, the rare ‘micromoon’ could be extra spooky this year as it is set to appear on Friday 13.
A full moon on Friday 13 is extremely rare. The last one was almost 20 years ago, back in 2000 and we are not expected to see another one until 2049.
Here in the UK it’s technically closer to Saturday 14, arriving at around 5.32 am. Still spooky though.
Mr Rao added: “The arrival of this year’s Harvest Moon will depend on which time zone you happen to live in.
“If you live in the Eastern Time Zone, the moment the Moon turns full will occur just after midnight – at 12.33 am – on Saturday 14.
“But if you live elsewhere in the country – in the Central, Mountain, or Pacific time zones – the moment that the Moon turns full comes before midnight on Friday 13.”
The Harvest Moon is one of the most impressive astronomical spectacles of the year and happens just before the Autumn Equinox – signalling the start of a new season.
According to experts, the name is linked to a ‘shorter-than-usual’ lag time in-between moonrise and sunset.
As a result, farmers gathering crops for the harvest could work longer outside under the light of the Moon.
Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org told the Express: “In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours.
“As the Sun’s light faded in the west, the Moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.
“Who named the Harvest Moon? That name probably sprang to the lips of farmers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, on autumn evenings, as the Harvest Moon aided in bringing in the crops.”
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