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WEATHER U: A date with the Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon doesn’t always look like a giant jack-o-lantern in the sky but it did last year. Judy Leblanc-Brennan was at the right place at the right time when she snapped this lovely photo of the Harvest Moon rising over Sydney N.S. on September 24, 2018.
The Harvest Moon doesn’t always look like a giant jack-o-lantern in the sky but it did last year. Judy Leblanc-Brennan was at the right place at the right time when she snapped this lovely photo of the Harvest Moon rising over Sydney N.S. on September 24, 2018. - Contributed

The date of this month’s full moon is a little up in the air.  

That seems like a strange thing to say because the exact time of the full moon is calculated quite precisely. The confusion stretches across our time zone. For us in Atlantic Canada, the moon will be officially full Saturday morning at 1:33 ADT or 2:03 NDT. If you live west of the Eastern time zone, the full moon will be very late on Friday … the 13th.   A full moon only happens on a Friday the 13th once every 20 years.   

Each month the full moon comes with a few unique names – usually tied to the activities of the month. The Full Strawberry Moon shines brightly in June, the Full Snow Moon in February and the Full Corn Moon in September, but not always. This year, the September full moon is the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the only full moon name which is determined by the equinox.

The full moon nearest the equinox is special for another reason and that’s called the Harvest Moon Effect. The moon normally rises about 50 minutes later each night. Around the date of the Harvest Moon, the moon rises as little as 23 minutes later on successive nights, making for lovely bright evenings. Before tractors had headlights, this extra evening moonlight allowed farmers to continue to harvest their crops after the sunset, at least for a few days. By the time the moon has reached last quarter, the typical 50-minute delay has returned.  

Should we expect to see a big orange moon tomorrow night? We don’t always but because this equinox full moon’s path around Earth creates a narrow angle with the horizon, the moonlight travels through more clouds and dust. The light bounces off the particles in the air and the moon can look like a big fall pumpkin in the sky.  

Shine on Harvest Moon! 



Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.


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