“Harvest Moon” tonight

October 20, 2009. I was watching PBS Channel 20 in the wee hours of this morning, and learned that the Harvest Moon is seen October 3rd-5th this year. Folks need watch for it rising shortly after sunset.

The Harvest Moon is the first full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. ‘Tis ”featured” three days because of this particular time of year and the earth’s position with the moon. Normally, the moonrise is about 50 minutes apart from the night before. However, during Harvest Moon, the moonrises are about 27 minutes apart.

Now, this time of year has been for centuries, the harvest season for North America and Europe. Back before electric light and tractors with lights, the harvest moon was especially significant. Farmers knew they had three nights with extra time to work by, provided by skylight after the sunset.

For us in modern day, we may pause to enjoy the moonrise in a particular autumn beauty. Because of the moon’s position with earth this time of year, we view the moonrise close to the horizon – through the earth’s atmosphere, that is thicker than the atmosphere overhead. It is because of this point of view that we see the moon in a yellow, orange or reddish hue.

I grew up along the southern Minnesota countryside, on a homestead surrounded by farmers’ fields. I watched combine tractors plowing by headlights. Farmers didn’t have to hope for clear Harvest Moon nights, so no one ever told me what was behind the Harvest Moon.

Tonight, in my mind I turn out the lights of those tractors, and the yard lights around them. The Harvest Moon is magnificent. I am home at the kitchen table, wondering if my dad and other farmers are able to harvest enough of the ready crops before it becomes too dark. Perhaps they call me out to help reap the most we can by the Harvest Moonlight.

***Tonight in Chicago, the sunset is to be at 6:26 p.m. To find out the time in your area, visit one of your favorite weather forecast sites.***

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