A painting titled “The Harvest Moon” (c. 1872) by George Mason depicts farmers harvesting by the light of the Moon in the era before electric lighting. Public Domain
Tonight’s moon is one we’ve all heard of — the Harvest Moon. It’s the full moon that occurs closest to the fall equinox, and since that was only two days ago, this Harvest Moon is a good fit. What makes it special is that for several nights in a row, it rises only about 20-25 minutes later instead of its usual 50 minutes. Successive risings at nearly the same time provided extra light to bring in the harvest in the days before electric lighting.
The moon travels east (to the left for observers in the northern hemisphere) across the sky as it orbits the Earth. The evening crescent sets shortly after sunset, but by the time the moon is half, it’s due south at sunset and sets around midnight. A full moon lies directly opposite the sun — it rises at sunset and stays up all night till the next morning’s sunrise.
The waxing gibbous moon a few days before full rises over the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Minn. Saturday night. ...