A Full Harvest Moon Is Coming in September

suerob/iStock via Getty Images
suerob/iStock via Getty Images

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists a special name for every month's full moon, from January's wolf moon to December's cold moon. Even if you're just a casual astronomy fan, you've likely heard the name of September's full moon. The harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and it's associated with festivals celebrating the arrival of autumn. Here's what you need to know before catching the event this year.

What is a harvest moon?

You may have heard that the harvest moon is special because it appears larger and darker in the night sky. This may be true depending on what time of night you look at it, but these features are not unique to the harvest moon.

Throughout the year, the moon rises on average 50 minutes later each night than it did the night before. This window shrinks in the days surrounding the fall equinox. In mid-latitudes, the moon will rise over the horizon only 25 minutes to 30 minutes later night after night. This means the moonrise will occur around sunset several evenings in a row.

So what does this mean for the harvest moon? If you're already watching the sunset and you catch the moonrise at the same time, it will appear bigger than usual thanks to something called the moon illusion. It may also take on an orange-y hue because you're gazing at it through the thick filter of the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs blue light and projects red light. So if you've only seen the full harvest moon around sunset, you may think it always looks especially big and orange, while in reality, any full moon will look that way when it's just above the horizon.

When to See the Harvest Moon

This year, the harvest moon will be visible the night of Saturday, September 14—about a week before the fall equinox on September 23. The moon will reach its fullest state at 12:33 a.m. ET—but if you're still convinced it's not a true harvest moon without that pumpkin-orange color, you can look for it at moonrise at 7:33 p.m. on September 13.

Mark Your Calendars: The Lyrid Meteor Shower Is Coming

Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images
Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images

If you've grown tired of Zoom meetings, Netflix parties, and livestreams, take a break from staring at your screens to look up at the sky. Starting in April, the Lyrid meteor shower will make its annual appearance. Here's what you need to know to see the spectacle from wherever you're quarantined.

What are the Lyrids?

With written evidence of the event dating back to China around 690 BCE, the Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers on record. The light show occurs when our planet passes through the tail of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, causing its rocky debris to burn up in the atmosphere.

From Earth, the Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which rises above the northeastern horizon after dusk, and the meteor shower borrows its name from the constellation. The Lyrids aren't as active as some other annual showers, usually maxing out at just 20 shooting stars per hour on peak nights. But patient spectators are sometimes rewarded: The event has been known to have outbursts of up to 100 meteors in a single hour. Such surges are rare and random, so all sky-gazers can do is look up at peak times and hope to get lucky.

How to See the Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids start every year around April 16, but your best chance at seeing them comes later in the month. Late April 21 through early April 22, the meteor shower is predicted to reach peak activity. Following that period, the shooting stars from the shower will become less frequent before finally fizzling out around April 25.

The Lyrids may be easier to spot in 2020 than in recent years. Since businesses closed and people started sheltering in their homes, there has been a slight dip in light and air pollution. Those darker, clearer skies will create better conditions for spotting shooting stars in some parts of the country. As always, waiting until skies are darkest—in the hours around midnight, typically—is the best way to boost your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible.

A Super Pink Moon—the Biggest Supermoon of 2020—Is Coming In April

April's super pink moon will be extra big and bright (but still white).
April's super pink moon will be extra big and bright (but still white).
jakkapan21/iStock via Getty Images

The sky has already given us several spectacular reasons to look up this year. In addition to a few beautiful full moons, we’ve also gotten opportunities to see the moon share a “kiss” with Venus and even make Mars briefly disappear.

In early April, avid sky-gazers are in for another treat—a super pink moon, the biggest supermoon of 2020. This full moon is considered a supermoon because it coincides with the moon’s perigee, or the point in the moon’s monthly orbit when it’s closest to Earth. According to EarthSky, the lunar perigee occurs on April 7 at 2:08 p.m. EST, and the peak of the full moon follows just hours later, at 10:35 p.m. EST.

How a supermoon is different.

Since the super pink moon will be closer to Earth than any other full moon this year, it will be 2020’s biggest and brightest. It’s also the second of three consecutive supermoons, sandwiched between March’s worm moon and May’s flower moon. Because supermoons only appear about 7 percent bigger and 15 percent brighter than regular full moons, you might not notice a huge difference—but even the most ordinary full moon is pretty breathtaking, so the super pink moon is worth an upward glance when night falls on April 7.

The meaning of pink moon.

Despite its name, the super pink moon will still shine with a normal golden-white glow. As The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, April’s full moon derives its misleading moniker from an eastern North American wildflower called Phlox subulata, or moss pink, that usually blooms in early April. It’s also called the paschal moon, since its timing helps the Catholic Church set the date for Easter (the word paschal means “of or relating to Easter”).

[h/t EarthSky]

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