Alexandra Cranford / WWL Eyewitness New Forecast Team
This year’s harvest moon will rise on Wednesday night, so we in the New Orleans area should get a good glimpse of the typically big and vibrant full moon.
The harvest moon is the name given to the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. The autumnal equinox (the astronomical start of the fall season) is on September 22 this year. This month’s full moon falls on the night of September 18, so that’s the night of the harvest moon.
What makes the harvest moon different from other moons? Well, it’s not actually any bigger, brighter or more reddish. But it is out there for a little longer in the evening. For a few nights around this full moon, the moon rises up to a half hour earlier in the evening compared to other months. That slight difference in moonrise time is determined by the tilt of the moon’s orbit around the earth.
Those few extra minutes of moonlight are the reason for the harvest moon's distinctive name. Before electricity, farmers relied on that precious bonus bit of bright moonlight as they rushed to finish harvesting their crops.
The harvest moon (or any moon) can appear bigger and more reddish when it's near the horizon. The reddish tint comes from how the light shines through dust and particles close to the earth's surface. The moon can look bigger because of the moon illusion.
By the way, the moon "officially" becomes full at 6:13am Thursday. Since its full phase is closer to Wednesday night than Thursday night, we say the night of the full moon is Wednesday night. The moon will look big and bright for a few nights before and after it officially becomes full.
The moon rises at 6:31pm Wednesday night, and it will stay in the sky until after 5am Thursday. Take a minute or two to look up and admire this year's harvest moon!