This year, we can welcome fall with a harvest moon on the creepiest day of all - Friday the 13th. Time for some moongazing!
Fall is set to arrive on September 23, but ahead of its official advent, it appears that Mother Nature has a spooky little surprise in store for us. If you're excited about bingeing some horror movies or dressing up creepy for Halloween, this is something right up your alley: a harvest moon on Friday the 13th. Yes, this is everything your favorite horror flick prepared you for. According to Farmers’ Almanac contributing astronomer Joe Rao, this is a rare occurrence that happens only once every 20 years so it's definitely something to get excited about. You know what that means - it's time to round up your friends for a night of moon gazing!
For those who are unfamiliar, a harvest moon is a full moon that takes place nearest to the start of fall or the autumnal equinox. It typically coincides with September's full moon, though it sometimes happens in October as well. Now, you're probably wondering why it's called a harvest moon in the first place. Well, its name has roots in farmer communities - no surprise there. As The Old Farmer's Almanac explains, "For several evenings, the moonrise comes soon after sunset. This results in an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening, which was a traditional aide to farmers and crews harvesting their summer-grown crops."
To enjoy some moongazing, clear out your Friday evening schedule if you're in the Central, Mountain, or Pacific time zones. The moonrise will take place immediately once the sun sets - and the moon will be brighter than it is on most nights. During the lead-up to the harvest moon, the moon is expected to rise at nearly the same time each night, which means it will appear less than 27 minutes later every night. Now, if you're on the East Coast, you'll only be able to see the harvest moon a little later. Specifically, the harvest moon will occur at 12:33 am on Saturday the 14th. This means you've got enough time to watch a horror movie with your friends to get into the spooky spirit of it all.
For the astronomy enthusiasts out there, the harvest moon could even potentially be a Supermoon or a Micromoon as it just almost coincides with apogee, "that point in its orbit which places it at its greatest distance from the Earth - 252,100 miles away." Essentially this means the moon could appear bigger or smaller than it usually does. Either way, it is bound to be a fun and beautiful evening. The next harvest moon is only set to occur in the United States in the year 2049 so don't miss this rare opportunity to witness nature in all its magnificence.