September’s full moon sets the scene for a Blue Moon on Halloween

September’s full moon, the Harvest Moon, will be last winter moon of 2020 and sets the stage for a Blue Moon on Halloween. It’s the first time in three years that the Harvest Moon occurs so early in the month.

Usually, September’s full Harvest Moon is typically the full moon closest to the first day of spring, known as the vernal equinox which falls on 22 September. However, in 2020, October’s Hunter Moon will occur closest to the equinox.

Why is it called Harvest moon?

The names of full moons are derived from the 1930s Maine Farmers Almanac, which uses Native American names each for month’s full moon. The name was derived from both colonists and Algonquin-speaking tribes.

The Harvest moon was named after the time of year when corn was harvested. Therefore, it’s also known as the Full Corn Moon.

“In the days before tractors with headlights, having moonlight to work by was crucial to getting the harvest in quickly before rain caused it to rot.”

Alan MacRobert

Before the days of electric light, farmers depended on the bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “working by moonlight was the only way they could gather their crops”.

In the Southern hemisphere, the September full equinox ushers in the spring season. While the Harvest Moon marks the autumnal equinox in the Northern hemisphere, our autumnal equinox will fall on 22 March 2021.

How to see September’s full Harvest Moon?

This moment when the Harvest Moon is exactly 180 degrees opposite the Sun in ecliptic longitude falls on 2 September 2020, at 5:22 Universal Time, or 7:22 South African Standard Time.

Since that occurred during the daylight hours, the best time to view the full moon is between 2 and 4 September, as the full moon retains its “fullness” up to three days its peak.

According to Time and Date, the moon was at 99.7% fullness at the time of publishing. The absolute best time to view the Moon is a few days after the first quarter, when exactly half the Moon is illuminated.

At this phase, it is perfectly positioned in the night sky and there is enough light to reveal an astonishing amount of detail. Depending on where you are in South Africa, you might have trouble viewing the moon tonight, due to the weather.

When is the next full moon?

You’ll only have to wait another month. The next full moon will appear on 13 October. It is known as Hunters Moon, or Blood Moon, as it traditionally marked the start of the hunting season.

October will have two full moons: the Hunters Moon on 1 October 2020, and a Blue Moon on 31 October. The Hunter’s moon will also be the moon that occurs closest to the Vernal Equinox, which falls on 22 September.

In 2019, September’s harvest was the moon that occurred closest to the Vernal Equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, this marks the astronomical start of autumn; and it marks the astronomical start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

The previous full moon was August’s Sturgeon Moon, named after the Giant Sturgeon of the Great Lakes, which were most readily caught during the days leading up to and succeeding the full moon in August.

“The lake sturgeon has a greenish-grey colour and a pointed snout with two pairs of whisker-like tactile organs dangling near the mouth. It is sometimes called a ‘living fossil’, as it belongs to a family of fish that has existed for more than 135 million years.”


Also read – Friday the 13th: Why the date is considered unlucky Protection Status

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