Wednesday 18th September 2013.

If you see a larger than life, orange-hued moon at the end of September it could well be a ‘Harvest Moon’. This celebrated moon appears for a few days but the Saturday night nearest the Autumn Equinox {22 Sept} is the official ‘Harvest’. Centuries ago, when the weather and the seasons affected our lives more obviously than it does now, each full moon throughout the year was given a different name to help mark times of sowing, reaping and resting ground. The Harvest Moon is one of the few we’ve held onto, popping up in songs like “Shine on Harvest Moon”.

It’s longevity could partly be because it was seen as a bonus at harvest time {it appears in the Northern Hemisphere at the time of the year that coincides with the harvesting of crops} and farmer’s no doubt made use of the extra light to get their crops in safely. Moons normally rise 50 minutes later each day but at the Autumn Equinox this time shrinks to just 30 minutes later, due to the angle between the Moon to the horizon, this gives us almost an extra half hour’s light at a time when the days are growing shorter.

Go outside and do some moon gazing.

The Harvest Moon is a great excuse to enjoy the moon. As it rises and sets it actually appears bigger than normal, this is a ‘moon illusion’. You can also get some really pretty colours appearing on the moon due to the angle of the sun upon it. So look out for a red or orange moon now.

You can see the dark patches on the moon with the naked eye {these are huge lava flow lakes triggered by asteroid collisions}. But try looking through binoculars, a telephoto lens on your camera or better still a telescope and you’ll see cliffs, ridges and craters. This is a great way to get children started with learning about the night sky and astronomy.

You might also see a flock of migrating geese against an early evening moon. It’s said that birds wait for the Harvest Moon to start their migration. And there may be some truth in it as studies show that some birds do use the moon to help them to navigate, so keep your eyes open.

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin’
We could dream this night away.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

Harvest Moon
Neil Young