Night follows day. Autumn follows summer. And another natural rhythm continues tonight, as the Hunter's Moon follows the Harvest Moon.
The Harvest Moon is the full Moon that's closest to the autumnal equinox. In centuries past, the moonlight was an important resource -- it helped farmers harvest their crops well into the night. By the next full Moon, the light helped hunters track small game across the bare fields.
Many cultures have named the full Moons. Some of them stuck with only a few names, like Harvest and Hunter's Moon. But others named every full Moon of the year. The system served as an annual calendar. It helped villages know when it was time to plant or reap their crops, and told nomadic tribes when it was time to move on. It also told people when it was time to hold special ceremonies or rituals -- often those whose aim was to continue the cycles of the sky.
Today, of course, we don't need the names of the full Moons to track the passage of time. We've got everything from wall calendars to electronic gizmos to prod us along.
Yet the cycle of full Moons continues: One full Moon following another across the millennia, maintaining a celestial calendar that doesn't need batteries.
Look for the beautiful Moon arcing high across the sky tonight. It's full at 8:37 p.m. Central Daylight Time -- a bright marker in the calendar of the night sky.
Tomorrow: a star that'll make you dizzy.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.