Harvest moon to boldly shine tonight, Venus and Saturn snuggle up


The view of the Harvest Moon, almost full, Tuesday evening. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr)

Behold the harvest moon tonight, the full moon closest to the fall equinox.

It rises at 6:34 p.m. and will appear prosperously in the night sky until it sets at 7:01 a.m. (The moon officially reaches full phase at 7:13 a.m. Thursday morning, moments after it has set). Clear skies will allow perfect viewing conditions as well as photography, if you’re so inclined.

The harvest moon gets it name from, no surprise, its tie to early agriculture.

“In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours,” EarthSky explains. “As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.”

The harvest moon is no different from any other full moon in terms of its size, brightness, and color.

Additional reading: Everything you need to know: Harvest Moon 2013

Venus – Saturn pairing

While gazing at the harvest moon, take a moment to look towards the southwest sky. You’ll see Venus, the second brightest object. Saturn will also be in view, but probably not with the naked eye. If you use binoculars or, better, a telescope, you’re likely to spot it – less than four degrees away from Venus.

“Although Saturn shines as brilliantly as a first-magnitude star, Venus outshines Saturn by about 80 times,” Earth Sky says. “If you can’t see Saturn on these September evenings, try aiming binoculars at Venus to spot Saturn nearby. Venus and Saturn will occupy the same binocular field of view from about September 15 to September 21.”

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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