Hunter's Moon

StarDate: November 2, 2009

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Each full Moon has its own name to denote its significance to that time of year. Last month, we had the best-known full Moon of the year -- the Harvest Moon. It got its name because it casts extra light during the end-of-summer harvest season, giving farmers extra time to gather their crops.

The full Moon after the Harvest Moon is the Hunter's Moon, which is visible tonight. Most years, the Harvest Moon comes in September, with the Hunter's Moon in October. But this year, October's full Moon was closer to the September equinox, so the Harvest Moon and Hunter's Moon got pushed back a month.

Like the Harvest Moon, the Hunter's Moon was named long ago. With the crops harvested and safely stored for the winter, the fields were bare. That gave hunters a better look at game scampering across the ground.

You can usually count on the Hunter's Moon to be orange or yellow as it rises -- the result of particles suspended in the atmosphere. It makes the Moon resemble a pumpkin -- appropriate for this time of year.

And this is a good time to experience the Moon Illusion -- an optical illusion that makes the Moon look larger when it's near the horizon than when it's higher in the sky. Psychologists say it looks bigger because we can compare it to objects on the ground. When it's higher, it stands alone.

So whether it's just rising into view or soaring high across the sky, enjoy the beautiful light of the Hunter's Moon.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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