This October is a moony month (or “moonth” if you’d rather) beginning with an Eager Micro Full Harvest Moon today, and ending with a Full Blue Hunter’s Moon on Halloween.
An Eager Micro Full Harvest Moon. What a moonthful. Why so many names?
Eager: the Moon tends to rise about 50 minutes later each day. A moon is “eager” when it rises sooner than this global average. From my location in Vancouver, tonight’s Harvest Moon will rise at 7:17pm, a mere 17 minutes later than it did yesterday. Whether a moon is early or late depends on its orbit, and your position on Earth. This effect is exaggerated the further you are from the Equator.
Micro: you’ve heard of super moons, well micro moons are their humble opposites. Because the Moon’s orbit is elliptical (squashed and not perfectly circular) there are times in its 27-day orbit where it is farther, and times where it is closer to us.
We call the closest point the perigee, and the furthest point the apogee. The difference in distance between the two is roughly 45,000 kilometers or 27,961 miles. Micro moons happen when the Moon is at its apogee.
While today’s moon is a micro moon (also known as a minimoon, or apogee moon) the micro-est full moon of the year will occur on Halloween. Spooky.
Full: a Full Moon occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, allowing sunlight to fully illuminate its face. One of the four primary moon phases, Full Moon is actually the specific moment the Moon’s face is 100% illuminated, although we generally mark the moon as full for the entire calendar day. A full moon is also by definition the only time a lunar eclipse can happen when the Earth, Sun, and Moon are aligned just right (aka a syzygy).
Harvest: The Farmer’s Almanac has names for each of the 12 full moons of the year. September’s full moon is the Corn Moon, and October’s is the Hunter’s Moon.
A Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, and normally occurs in September. Usually the Harvest Moon is either a Harvest Corn Moon, or a Harvest Hunter’s Moon, but since there are 13 Full Moons in 2020, this Harvest Moon doesn’t have to share its name.
Moon: the Moon. You’ve seen her.
So what of this moon? This Moon comes at a time of great transition: at the end of summer, and start of harvest season. It’s a time of festivals and celebration, before the days start shortening and weather gets cold.
One festival close to my heart is the Mid-Autumn festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, with the 15th of each month falling on a full moon). Akin to Thanksgiving, Mid-Autumn festival is a time to gather with family, to give thanks for the harvest, and most importantly: to eat a lot of mooncake (A dense pastry filled with sweet lotus seed paste and salted duck egg yolk).
Whatever your reason for appreciating the Moon, I hope you get the chance to be outside and enjoy its roundness however you can.
Read More: 5 cool facts about the 2020 harvest moon