The “Harvest Moon” is usually in September, but due to a quirk in the calendar, it’s occurring this coming Thursday, October 1, 2020.
The Harvest Moon is one of the most famous full Moons of the year, but is there anything special about this full Moon compared to the one before (the Corn Moon) or after (the Halloween Hunter’s Blue Moon)?
All will be explained, though most importantly, we’ll learn exactly when to be outside looking up this week—and in what direction you need to look—to see the Harvest Moon looking its very best.
So here’s everything you need to know about seeing the Harvest Moon usher-in October—and a season of awesome moongazing.
Why the ‘Harvest Moon’ is in the ‘wrong’ month
Normally the Harvest Moon is in September, but not this year. “The Harvest Moon is the name given to the full Moon closest to the equinox each September—the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere,” explains Tom Kerss, a British astronomy and science communicator who hosts the weekly Star Signs: Go Stargazing! podcast. “That occurred in late September, and normally that month’s full Moon occurs within the two weeks before, but this year it’s October’s full Moon that will fall closer to the equinox.”
So rather unusually it’s October’s full Moon that this year takes on the role of the Harvest Moon.
When is the full ‘Harvest Moon?’
It will be officially 100% illuminated from our planet’s point of view on Thursday, October 1, 2020. The global moment of full Moon occurs at 9.06 p.m. BST in London, 5.06 p.m. EDT in New York City and 2.06 p.m. PDT in Los Angeles.
In practice our satellite will look just as “full”—and be just as entrancing a sight—the evening before. Not so the evening after, when although it’s almost as big, it will rise in darkness … which is not as interesting!
However, the key thing to remember here is weather. A cloud-free horizon is best for watching a moonrise or moonset, and maybe it will be cloudy where you are on “full Moon day” on Thursday. So take a look on Wednesday if it’s clear—the show will be almost as good.
There are actually THREE chances to see the Harvest Moon looking awesome.
The 3 times to see the ‘Harvest Moon’ at its best
The prime time to see the Harvest Moon at its best will be at moonrise on the day that it’s full. On full Moon day that happens very close to sunset. This year that’s Thursday, October 1.
The real treat is to see the moon rising while the surroundings are still lit; the Sun may have just set, but it takes a while for the light to dim. That’s why it’s such an arresting sight.
However, as luck would have it the almost-full Harvest Moon will rise the previous evening—on Wednesday, September 30, 2020—also very close to sunset.
For early-risers there’s a further chance to see a similar, but different sight as the near-full Harvest Moon sets on the morning of October 1, 2020.
That makes a total of THREE chances to see the Harvest Moon at its best this week.
Where and when to see the Harvest Moon rise at dusk on Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Look east as the Sun sets in the west. In practice you won’t see the Harvest Moon appear until a few minutes—maybe as much as 15 minutes—after the official moonrise time because of atmospheric cloud low on the horizon (as well as buildings, trees etc.).
- London: Sunset is at 6.41 p.m BST, moonrise is at 6.47 p.m. BST
- New York City: Moonrise is at 6.36 p.m EDT, sunset is at 6.40 p.m. EDT
- Los Angeles: Moonrise is at 6.32 p.m PDT, sunset is at 6.39 p.m. PDT
Where and when to see the Harvest Moon set before dawn on Thursday, October 1, 2020
Look west as the Sun rises in the east. In practice you’ll see the Harvest Moon disappear—after a gorgeous display of orangey hues—a few minutes before the official moonset time because of atmospheric cloud low on the horizon.
- London: Moonset is at 6.11 a.m BST, sunrise is at 7.01 a.m. BST
- New York City: Moonset is at 6.25 a.m EDT, sunrise is at 6.45 a.m. EDT
- Los Angeles: Moonset is at 6.31 a.m PDT, sunrise is at 6.47 a.m. PDT
Where and when to see the Harvest Moon rise at dusk on Thursday, October 1, 2020
Tonight is THE time to look at a properly full Harvest Moon; in Europe it will be a few hours from being 100% full, and in North America it will be just a few hours past full.
- London: Sunset is at 6.39 p.m BST, moonrise is at 7.02 p.m. BST (full Moon is at 9.06 p.m. BST)
- New York City: Sunset is at 6.39 p.m EDT, moonrise is at 6.59 p.m. EDT (full Moon is at 5.06 p.m EDT)
- Los Angeles: Sunset is at 6.38 p.m PDT, moonrise is at 6.59 p.m. PDT (full Moon is at 2.06 p.m. PDT)
Next up on October 30, 2020—the he Halloween Hunter’s Blue Moon!
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes