SHINE ON HARVEST MOON! – Songs are written about it, lovers sing of it, but when’s the last time you actually looked at a Harvest Moon?
First, what is a “Harvest Moon”? It’s defined as “the Full Moon nearest to the September equinox” (the first day of autumn, which this year is Saturday, Sept. 22). For everyone the Harvest Moon is conspicuous; for farmers in years past it was vital. At the climax of harvest they could work late into the night by this autumn Moon’s light. It rises due east about the time the Sun is setting due west (6:00 p.m.), the Sun and Moon both being roughly on the equator at this season. And for a few days, instead of rising its average of 50 minutes later each day, it rises at nearly the same time for several days. This is because the Moon’s orbital path is tilted somewhat sideways (horizontally) this time of the year, so that it makes a shallow angle relative to the horizon.
This year, the Harvest Moon will rise at its fullest on Saturday, Sept. 29, one week after the autumn equinox. And while moon-watching is always interesting, it will be especially so a week before the Full Moon, on the night of the equinox, Saturday, Sept. 22—which has been designated “International Observe the Moon Night.”
You’d be surprised how many lunar features you can see, with even a small telescope or binoculars, when the moon is at this phase—with only its right half lit, looking like a “D” in the southern sky.
If you feel like a Saturday-night outing to a local observing event on the 22nd, here are some local possibilities:
Griffith Observatory, free public star party 2:00-9:45 p.m. Sept. 22:
For a directory with links to many L.A. area astronomy-interest websites:
International Observe the Moon Night is an educational outreach event sponsored by multiple NASA and astronomical organizations. Some 300 events in over 40 countries are being hosted by universities, observatories, NASA agencies, high schools, and amateur astronomers to observe the Moon and share information about it. Events are offered both in person and via internet streaming video. The date was selected during the Moon’s waxing gibbous phase, to enhance visibility of lunar craters.
For more on International Observe the Moon Night:
FINALLY, A BIT OF LUNAR (OR IS IT LOONY?) TRIVIA. How many Moon-related songs can you think of?
Let’s start with the classics: Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” Then fast-forward to jazz-age and swing-era standards like “Shine on Harvest Moon,” “Carolina Moon,” and “Moon Over Miami.” Remember “Moonlight Becomes You” from one of those 1940s “Road to…” movies with Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby? From the Big Bands there’s “Moonlight Cocktails” and Moonlight Serenade.” And finally, who could forget Audrey Hepburn singing “Moon River” in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”?
And here’s a final idea: Why not invite friends in for a backyard moonlight barbecue, with or without telescope, on either Sept. 22 or 29? A background of some of the above songs, to accompany your “moonlight cocktails,” would be nice—and that Old Devil Moon overhead is sure to be good company.