Shine on Harvest Moon
Harvest Moon CREDIT - NASA

Shine on Harvest Moon

28/09/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020 there are 13 full moons and October has two for you to observe.

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mascot Telescope Right
October sees not one but two full moons, so make sure you don’t miss the Harvest Moon (01 October) and Hunter’s Moon (31 October).
A Blue Blood Moon CREDIT - Dominique Dierick

The Harvest Moon is the name is given to the Full Moon which is closest to the September equinox, which is the start of autumn in astronomy.

However, as astronomical seasons do not match up with the lunar month, the month the Harvest Moon occurs in, varies.

Most years, it is in September. However, every three years, it is in the month of October, the same month in which we see the Hunter’s Moon.

The second full moon within the same month is also called a ‘Blue Moon’, so technically we will see a ‘Blue Hunter’s Moon’.

What is the Harvest Moon?

What is the Harvest Moon?
Full Moon from the International Space Station Image credit NASA

It was during September that most of the crops were harvested ahead of the autumn and this full moon would give light to farmers so they could carry on working longer in the evening. As a result, it is most commonly known as the Harvest Moon, with some tribes also calling it the ‘Full Corn Moon’, ‘Barley Moon’ or ‘Fruit Moon’.

What is a Hunter’s Moon?

What is a Hunter’s Moon?
Hunter Moon over the Alps CREDIT - NASA, DeRosa

Also known as a sanguine or ‘blood’ moon, the term ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is used traditionally to refer to a full moon that appears during the month of October.

This name is thought to date back to early European and Native American tribes who would associate October’s full moon with the season for hunting game and preparing for the winter months.

The Hunter’s Moon can appear to look bigger and brighter than other full moons with a warm orange glow, which is due to its position near the horizon and that fact that you’re looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when you gaze up and overhead.

Hunter’s moon is mentioned in several sources as the Anglo-Saxon name for the Full Moon of October. This is the month when the game is fattened, and it is time to start preparing for the coming winter.

How can I see it?

How can I see it?
Laser Ranging Facility at the Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center CREDIT - NASA

To see both full moons you will need to head outside and find a place you can see the horizon all around you.

  • 1 October – the moon will rise at 19:00 in the east/southeast then slowly crossing the sky to set at 05:00. If there are clear skies and you have a clear line of sight, you will be able to enjoy the Moon on the horizon and watch it slowly cross, reaching its highest point at around 22:05
  • 31 October – the moon will rise at 16:53 in the east/northeast then slowly crossing the sky to set at 06:22. Don’t forget, this is Halloween, so a great excuse to spend the evening staring at the Moon (try not to howl too loudly!)