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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

EarthSky Tonight—October 22, Hunter’s Moon rises at sunset, shines all night

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

For the world’s northern hemisphere, tonight is the night of the Full Hunter’s Moon. Watch it rise in the east tonight as the sun goes down. Like any full moon, the Hunter’s Moon will shine all night long. It will soar highest in the sky around midnight tonight and will set in the west tomorrow around sunrise.

The bright “star” near the moon tonight is really a planet, Jupiter.

Officially, the Hunter’s Moon is the full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. This year, the Harvest Moon came in September, so tonight’s moon bears the name Hunter’s Moon. 
 What’s special about the Harvest Moon?

So how is the Hunter’s Moon different from other full moons? First, the Hunter’s Moon always occurs in autumn. In the northern hemisphere, it usually falls in October, although it can come as late as early November. However, here is the real difference: the location of the moonrise on your horizon. After tonight – the night of the full Hunter’s Moon – you can watch the moon rise noticeably farther north along the eastern horizon for several nights in succession.

It’s this northward movement of the moon along the eastern horizon at moonrise – for several days in a row, around the time of full moon – that gives the Hunter’s Moon its magic.

In other words, for us in the northern hemisphere, these northerly moonrises assure us of dusk-till-dawn moonlight for the next few nights. Here is the trick. On average, the moon rises 50 minutes later daily. At mid-northern latitudes, the moon now rises about 30 minutes later. Further north, the effect is even more pronounced. For instance, at latitudes close to the Arctic Circle – like at Fairbanks, Alaska – the moon actually rises at the same time for several days in a row.

That means there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise, in the days following the full moon.

Before the advent of electricity, our ancestors knew how to plan nocturnal activity around the full Hunter’s Moon. If you live sufficiently north on the globe, you can count on tonight’s Hunter’s Moon to bring dusk-till-dawn moonlight for the next several nights!

Looking for a sky almanac? EarthSky recommends . . .

Written by Bruce McClure

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

Universe Today

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Simostronomy Blog

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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