Shine on Harvest Moon
Posted September 28, 2007
Although it doesn’t feel that way, this week marked the start of autumn, astronomically speaking. This is when the Earth’s tilt is such that the Sun is directly above the Equator. The days are getting shorter, the shadows are getting longer, can cooler temperatures be close behind? Let us hope so!
The full Moon this week was quite beautiful, riding high in the sky. This one is known as the Full Harvest Moon, the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Early farmers made good use of the bright Moon light to get the harvest in. My college days were spent at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, surrounded by farm land. (Trivia: What famous supermodel grew up in DeKalb?) I remember autumn nights you could see the combines out in the fields, they looked like spaceships off in the darkness with their lights, creating beams in the dust, pointed in different directions. Once the crops were ready, the combines ran 24 hours-a-day until all was harvested. Living in the “Breadbasket” region I gained a tremendous amount of respect for our farmers.