Astronomy Calendar and the Origins of Full Moon Names

by Donato O. Cacciapaglia

 

As the days shorten and the nights noticeably lengthen, the time has come for enjoying the night skies in the central Appalachian and Piedmont regions. It is also the time for the notorious Blue Ridge haze that has tainted our skies and viewing pleasure through the spring and summer seasons to dissipate, allowing clearer viewing of the nighttime sky.

The Harvest Moon, which occurred on the night of October 6th at 11:12 PM EDT, fell this year in October instead of the more usual September since the previous full moon fell so much earlier than the autumnal equinox, which this year was the latest it can ever be, September 23. Traditionally, the designation of Harvest Moon goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. In two years out of three, the harvest moon comes during the month of September, but every third year it occurs in early October, like this year.

 

Image of the Harvest Moon

 

The Harvest Moon was the only full moon given the same name by both the English name and by the Native Americans of eastern and northern North America. The name comes from this full moon falling during the peak of the harvest of crops before the winter winds arrive. As days grew shorter farmers could work on into the evening as the bright full moon rises in the east. Usually, the full moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for a few nights around the Harvest Moon, moonrise seems to be at nearly the same time each night although each moonrise is actually 25 to 30 minutes later each night across the United States at this time of year.

Besides the Harvest Moon, all of the full moons during the year have one colloquial name, or often more than one such name. The other full moons as we round out 2006 are:

Full moon names and moonrise times, and dates for 2007, Native American name first, then English:

 

Other key astronomical events for 2007:

 

Sources for Further Reading:

“Some Key Astronomical Dates and Times,” U.S. Naval Observatory, http://aa.usno.navy.mil/.