(USA TODAY/Doyle Rice) — A beautiful "harvest" full moon will rise in the eastern sky Friday evening, and the nearly full moon will be visible each night through the weekend, barring pesky clouds.
The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which this year comes next Thursday, Sept. 22. It's different from other full moons because it rises at roughly the same time for several nights running, giving more light.
Though the exact moment at which the moon is officially full is 3:05 p.m. ET Friday, it will still appear plenty big overnight Friday and for the next couple of nights as well.
Why the "harvest" moon nickname? "In the days before tractors with headlights, having moonlight to work by was crucial to getting the harvest in quickly before rain caused it to rot," according to Alan MacRobert, an editor at Sky &Telescope magazine.
The harvest moon was also the subject of this pop standard from the early 1900s:
Much of the world — but not the USA — will also see a faint "penumbral" lunar eclipse during this full moon Friday evening. This happens when the moon slides through a faint part of Earth's shadow, turning the moon slightly less bright than usual. The eclipse will be visible in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, according to EclipseWise.
And as to whether it's a true "supermoon" or not, the question has sparked a controversy among skywatchers. Experts disagree on the term's exact definition. A supermoon occurs when the moon is sometimes closer to the Earth than at other times during its orbit, which is not a perfect circle. This makes it appear bigger than normal, according to NASA.
Regardless, the moon "will be slightly bigger than usual" when you spot it in the evening this weekend, according to earthsky.org.
The harvest moon isn't the only one to have a name, though few are remembered now. The new moon after the harvest moon was typically called Hunter's moon, because it aided hunters stalking night game as fall deepened.
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