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Thu, 15 Sep 2016

Shine on, eclipsed Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon. Photo copyright Robin Scagell

This Friday's Harvest Moon won't be shining quite as brightly as usual as there will be a penumbral eclipse taking place as the Moon rises. This means that the Moon's disc will have the outer edge of the Earth's shadow across it, making it look a bit duskier than it should, though the dark full shadow misses the Moon on this occasion.

A penumbral lunar eclipse
Photo copyright Robin Scagell

The Moon rises with the eclipse in progress, and mid eclipse is at 19.54 BST, so it all happens at a civilised time. The show is over by 21.55. Well worth a look, and you don't have to lose any sleep over it. There's another penumbral eclipse next February, but we don't get a total lunar eclipse until 27 July 2018.

The Harvest Moon is the name given to the September full Moon. It gets its name because at this time of year the Moon rises only 30 minutes or so later each night, rather than the usual 45 minutes, so its light helpfully replaces that of the Sun for several nights in a row just as late harvesting takes place. In days of yore, before tractors were equipped with enormous lighting rigs, this extra evening light could have been crucial to farmers. 

Lunar eclipses only take place at full Moon, so an eclipse of the Harvest Moon is not particularly significant. There was a total eclipse at last year's Harvest Moon, and the next one will be on 18 September 2024.


Added by: Robin Scagell