Harvest Moon Arrives, But Without Eclipse For North America

With cooling temperatures in much of the United States, fall activities have already started up. While true autumnal temperatures likely will not settle in until October even for the northern states, an autumnal event occurred last night–one that many people in the U.S. and in Canada watched for in earnest.

A “supermoon” was set to rise last night, according to Metro News. The famed Harvest Moon is always one that ushers fall sentiments into the hearts of onlookers–whose hearts, as they look upon the moon, probably fill with hopes of bonfire nights, toasted marshmallows and pumpkin pies.

The Inquisitr reported on Thursday that the “Fall Equinox has special meaning in folklore.” After all, the “Harvest Moon” has been featured in movies, children’s shows, and various stories for decades. From Little Bear to classic Disney, the moon’s coming has symbolized the change of seasons and the changing phases of life, which The Washington Post agrees with.

“Its popularity is related almost certainly to there being few astronomy-themed songs quite so catchy as the oldie titled “Shine on, Harvest Moon.”

“The Harvest Moon is the full phase of the lunar cycle that arrives closest to the autumn equinox, when the sun passes over the equator and the length of day and night become nearly equal,” Metro News reported. “This year’s North American equinox will arrive on Sept. 22, six days after the Harvest Moon reaches its peak.”

One of the most interesting things about the Harvest Moon is the meaning behind its name, The Suburban said.

“The Harvest Moon has always been the biggest, brightest and earliest-rising full moon in the sky all year long, appearing shortly after sunset. Through the year’s, farmers have relied on that moonlight to lengthen the short work days of late summer and early fall, allowing them to continue with the harvest late into the night.”

“This year, some will be treated to an additional celestial show,” the news source further explained. “The full Harvest Moon will also feature a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. While not as spectacular as the full lunar eclipse in September 2015, it should still be a sight to see. The moon will take on a spooky glazed look as it passes through the Earth’s shadow.”

While the moon may have been visible to people in North America, the lunar eclipse was not.

“The 2016 Harvest Moon will also be accompanied by the year’s final lunar eclipse. Sadly, that phenomenon will be invisible in North American skies and a Harvest Moon-lunar eclipse tag team isn’t expected again until 2024,” Metro News said.

Although the next Harvest Moon-lunar eclipse won’t be seen until 2024, February 2017 promises a lunar eclipse, according to ABC15.

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Oregon Live explained the concept of a Harvest Moon and how it works.

“The moon’s orbit around the Earth is an oval, like the shape of an egg. Imagine the Earth as the solid yolk of a hard-boiled egg. The yolk is closer to the wider (bottom) end of the egg, while the narrow end (top) of the egg is farther away. When the moon’s orbit takes it farther from the earth, the moon is at ‘apogee’. When the orbit brings the moon closer to Earth, the moon is at ‘perigee.'”

The news source also said that scientists often dislike the term “Super Moon”–a name often applied to the Harvest Moon.

“The moon will be at apogee and perigee every month, though not always during the ‘full’ phase. It’s when the moon is full and at perigee that the term Super Moon is used by many, though not by scientists. Scientists have long referred to the coincidence of a full moon–or new moon–at perigee as ‘perigee-syzygy’, which doesn’t exactly roll off one’s tongue. We can thank astrologer Richard Nolle for coining the term Super Moon in 1979.”

While we can all appreciate the fact that we don’t have to ask one another if they saw the “perigee-syzygy” last night, we should also be thankful that many of us hopefully were able to see it last night–even if we missed the lunar eclipse.

[Featured Image by Charlie Riedel/AP Images]