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Harvest moon eclipse

Saturday, 10 September 2016

In keeping with my plan to give you little tasters of what the almanac will include I wrote last week about dusk times. Now it is the turn of the moon, because we are coming up to an exciting moon week when it is worth keeping an eye on the skies. 

September's full moon, which falls next Friday 16th at around 8pm UK time, has long been known as the Harvest Moon. Because of the moon's autumnal ellipsis it rises early in the evening and so its light was helpful to farmers at this time of working every hour to get the harvest in before winter. I don't know your life, maybe you are a horny handed person of the soil with an excess of corn still to gather in, but for most of us modern milksops this is just a perfect moment for some moon watching. September's moon lies particularly low in the sky, and this makes it appear larger than when it is high, and gives it a golden colour as we look at it through the maximum slice of the earth's atmosphere. On Friday this effect may be exaggerated as the moon will also undergo a penumbral eclipse, which happens when we slip almost between the sun and the moon and our outer shadow falls across it. This is in truth not a hugely spectacular phenomenon, it not being the core of the shadow that creates a full lunar eclipse, but you may notice shading on one side of the moon, and a more golden tinge than usual, which added to the harvest moon's orange shade could be very pretty indeed. The penumbral eclipse will be at its height at the moment the moon is fullest, so get outside and check it out - clouds willing - at 8pm Friday.

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Publication date: October 2017
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