What Is a Harvest Moon? All About the Lunar Spectacle That Means Fall Is Here

There’s a reason it looks orange.

Harvest Moon Rises Over Somerset
Getty ImagesMatt Cardy

On September 24 (and for a few days after) make sure to look up after sunset: If the skies are clear, you’ll see the harvest moon—a beautiful way to mark the start of autumn.

What is the harvest moon?

The harvest moon is the full moon that happens closest to the autumnal equinox, or the official start of fall, according to . The specific date of the harvest moon varies from year to year, and can occur either in September or October.

When can we see it this year?

The 2018 autumnal equinox is on September 22, and the next full moon occurs two days later on September 24. (Of course, this is only true for the northern hemisphere; in the southern hemisphere, the harvest moon comes in March or April, explains.) So mark your calendars for an evening stroll!

2015 Boston Calling Music Festival - Day 3
Getty ImagesMike Lawrie

Where does the name come from?

It’s called a harvest moon because the moonrise occurs shortly after sunset, giving farmers lots of bright moonlight early in the evening while they harvest their crops, according to . The harvest moon rises very near sunset for several nights in a row, making it unique among other full moons during the year—it might even seem like there’s a full moon for around a week.

also notes the term “harvest moon” became popular because of the 1903 song “Shine On Harvest Moon,” which was more recently covered by .

What does it look like?

If you catch a glimpse, you'll notice that this annual spectacle looks particularly beautiful. Compared to your average moon, it can appear bigger, brighter, or more orange, if you look right after sunset when it's close to the horizon. It’s a visual trick called “the moon illusion,” but it’s a gorgeous one.

Autumn weather Oct 6th 2017
Getty ImagesOwen Humphreys - PA Images

The harvest moon also occurs right around when birds are migrating south for the winter—so depending on where you live, you might be able to see birds fly by the full moon for a truly stunning sight.

And if you're feeling particularly stressed lately, take note: According to . Sounds like a plan to us!

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