Next week, keep a lookout for the harvest moon

Every fall, the harvest moon appears right around the autumnal equinox.

Chris Young/The State Journal-Register/AP/FILE
A harvest moon appears above John Olson's farm in Elkhart, Ill. All next week you can view the harvest moon.

Look up at the sky on Oct. 4 and you'll be greeted by the orange glow of the harvest moon.

Every fall – either in September or October – the harvest moon appears right around the autumnal equinox. During this time, the moon travels on a narrower, elliptic path close to the horizon, rather than its standard path. The moon also appears larger than life due to what is called a "moon illusion."

The harvest moon gets its name because the light from the moon allows farmers to work later hours – past sunset – and harvest staple crops such as pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice, during this time period. The Farmers' Almanac says "the moon typically rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the US, and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe."

The colors of the harvest moon vary and it can appear in red, yellow, or orange hues due to air pollution – mainly from forest fires.

Throughout centuries, the colorful harvest moon has inspired artists, painters, and poets. Many photographers have tried to capture images of the harvest moon, but it's not very easy.

To take stellar photos of this seasonal event, Writer Geoff Gaherty of offers the following photography tips:

If your camera has automatic exposure, the scene will look too bright and the moon will be overexposed. The trick to capturing the harvest moon in a photograph is first, to zoom in with your telephoto lens to make the moon appear larger, and secondly, to underexpose the picture by a couple of stops, to darken the landscape, saturate the colors, and expose the moon properly.

Soon, it'll be time to take out those cameras and capture one of nature's annual spectacles.


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