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Hunter’s Moon

October 15, 2016

It’s pretty easy to hunt up the Moon tonight. It’s full, so it rises around sunset and is in view all night long. And as the first full Moon after the Harvest Moon, it’s known as the Hunter’s Moon.

In today’s world, that name doesn’t mean a whole lot. On average, the Hunter’s Moon isn’t any brighter or closer to Earth than any other full Moon.

In centuries gone by, though, the Hunter’s Moon was an important marker in the calendars of many cultures. The moonlight illuminated the now-barren fields, making it easier for hunters to track their quarry and stock up for the winter. And thanks to the time of year, from high northern latitudes the Moon rises a bit earlier on the nights around the Hunter’s Moon than the average full Moon, providing even more light.

Over the course of a full year, the Moon rises about 50 minutes earlier each night. But based on the time of year and the viewer’s latitude, the exact difference on any given pair of nights varies dramatically — from just a few minutes to more than an hour.

In autumn, the angle of the Moon’s path across the sky is such that the gap between moonrises around the full Moon is shorter than average. But it’s just the opposite around new Moon. Then, the gap is around an hour or even longer. That means you have to wait longer to see the thin crescent Moon pop into view in the evening sky.

So enjoy the Hunter’s Moon, shedding its light on the autumn landscape.

Tomorrow: guiding lights for a mission to Mars.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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