Last year’s Harvest Moon rose up in brilliance behind the U.S. Capitol. This year’s rises Thursday at 7:04 p.m. in Washington. (Kevin Ambrose)

A sure sign that fall is here: The Harvest Moon will rise on Thursday night. Every full moon has a name rooted in various cultures and traditions. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Usually it occurs in September, but it can be as late as Oct. 7.

The name stems from exactly what you’d expect. Its appearance in the sky was a sign to farmers that it was time to bring in the bushels, and it allowed for a longer, brighter twilight.

Though “Harvest Moon” is the most popular name for the one that rises in October, thanks to the Celtic and Cherokee traditions, there are many more monikers for the autumn full moon:

  • Hunter’s Moon (Colonial American)
  • Blood Moon (Neo-pagan, Wiccan and English Medieval)
  • Kindly Moon (Chinese)
  • Blackberry Moon (Choctaw)
  • Moon When Quilling and Beading Is Done (Dakota Sioux)

If you need more reasons to look up at the night sky, you’ll see Saturn to the southwest, brightening as twilight fades to dark. If you’re an early riser on Thursday, you’ll see Venus very bright and low in the eastern sky. If you grab a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to see Mars very close to the upper right.

The Harvest Moon, the Blue Moon and the Red Moon are all full moons. This is what sets them apart. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

There’s nothing inherently different about this particular full moon, but it might look a little orange. When the moon first appears on the horizon, the light has to pass through a very thick layer of the atmosphere — much thicker than what it passes through when the moon is high in the sky. When light passes through a large distance in Earth’s atmosphere, the particles in the air scatter blue light away and let yellow, orange and red through. This is why the moon may appear orange when it’s close to the horizon.

The Harvest Moon will continue to rise in the coming days near the time of sunset, just like it would on a typical full-moon night. The moon itself won’t be full, as it will begin to wane immediately after the moment of peak fullness, but the timing will make it seem as if there’s a full moon three nights in a row.

What time does the Harvest Moon rise?

  • Boston — 6:39 p.m.
  • New York City — 6:52 p.m.
  • Philadelphia — 6:57 p.m.
  • Washington, D.C. — 7:04 p.m.
  • Atlanta — 7:36 p.m.
  • Chicago — 6:48 p.m.
  • Denver — 6:59 p.m.
  • Los Angeles — 6:55 p.m.
  • Seattle — 7:07 p.m.

Will there be clouds?

The Central U.S., Mid-Atlantic and Florida have the highest chance of clouds on Thursday evening, but breaks will be possible.


Cloud forecast for Thursday at 8 p.m. from the European model. (weatherbell.com)