Full moon Thursday will bring us a full, blue moon on Halloween!


A plane is seen flying in front of the second full moon for the month of July, Friday, July 31, 2015 in Arlington, Va.

The newest full Moon is this afternoon, Oct. 1, 2020, appearing “opposite” the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 5:05 p.m. EDT. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Wednesday morning through Saturday morning.

As the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox (the end of summer and start of fall), this is the Harvest Moon. During the harvest season farmers sometimes need to work late into the night by the light of the Moon. The full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the northern USA, and only 10 to 20 minutes later farther north in Canada and Europe. The Harvest Moon is an old European name with the Oxford English Dictionary giving 1706 as the year of its first published use. Most years the Harvest Moon falls in September but this is one of the years it falls in October. Blue Moon Month

Two Full Moons

October 2020 is a “Blue Moon” month with two full Moons. The first full Moon is on October 1st. The second, a so-called “Blue Moon,” occurs on October 31st. In recent years, people have been using the name Blue Moon for the second of two full moons in a single calendar month. An older definition of Blue Moon is that it’s the third of four full moons in a single season.

The song, “Blue Moon” was originally sung by The Marcels.

The Maine Farmer’s Almanac first published “Indian” names for the full Moons in the 1930s. Over time these names have become widely known and used. According to this almanac, as the full Moon in October and the first full Moon of fall, the Algonquin tribes in what is now the northeastern USA called this the Travel Moon, the Dying Grass Moon, or the Sanguine or Blood Moon. Some sources indicate that the Dying Grass, Sanguine, and Blood Moon names are related to the turning of the leaves and dying back of plants with the start of fall. Others indicate that the names Sanguine or Blood Moon are associated with hunting to prepare for winter. (I have read that the name “Travel Moon” comes from observing the migration of birds and other animals preparing for the winter. I don’t know, but this name may also refer to the season when the more northern tribes would move down from the mountains for the winter. For example, both the Iroquois and Algonquin would hunt in the Adirondacks in the summertime but would leave to avoid the harsh mountain winter.)

In China, Vietnam, and some other Asian countries, this full Moon corresponds with the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional harvest festival. In China, other names for this festival include the Moon Festival, the Mooncake Festival, and the Reunion Festival (with wives in China visiting their parents, then returning to celebrate with their husband and his parents). Part of the festival includes offerings to the Moon Goddess Chang’e (the name the China National Space Agency gives their lunar missions).

In Korea, this full Moon corresponds with the harvest festival Chuseok, during which Koreans leave the cities to return to their traditional hometowns and pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors.

This full Moon corresponds with the first of the two Japanese Tsukimi or “Moon-Viewing” festivals. This festival includes the tradition of offering sweet potatoes so this full Moon is sometimes called Imomeigetsu (which translates as “potato harvest Moon”). The Japanese full Moon festivities have become so popular that they extend for several days after the full Moon.

This full Moon occurs around the end of the seasonal monsoon rains in the Indian Subcontinent. For Buddhists, this full Moon is Pavarana, the end of Vassa, the three-month period of fasting for Buddhist monks tied to the monsoons (Vassa is sometimes given the English names “Rains Retreat” or “Buddhist Lent”). In Laos this full Moon corresponds with Boun Suang Huea or the Boat Racing Festival (which will occur on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020). In Sri Lanka, this is Vap Poya, which is followed by the Kathina festival, during which people give gifts to the monks, particularly new robes (so this lunar month is sometimes called the Month of Robes).

In most lunisolar calendars the months change with the new Moon and full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full Moon is in the middle of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar and near the middle of Safar, the second month of the Islamic year.

In the Hebrew calendar, this full Moon falls near the start of the Sukkoth holiday, a 7-day holiday tied to the 15th day of the lunar month of Tishrei (the 15th day of a lunar month is close to if not the same as the day of the full Moon). Sukkoth is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of the Ingathering. Sukkoth ties back to both the sheltering of the people of Israel during the 40 years in the wilderness in the Book of Leviticus and a harvest festival in the Book of Exodus. Often for this holiday a temporary hut symbolic of a wilderness shelter is built, and the family eats, sleeps, and spends time in this shelter. This year Sukkoth starts at sunset on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon. And you might want to consider celebrating the harvest; enjoying a mooncake; visiting your hometown, parents, and in-laws (observing appropriate social distancing, of course); and camping out.

As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next:

As autumn continues the daily periods of sunlight continue to shorten. For the Washington, DC area (using the location of NASA Headquarters), on the day of the full Moon (Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020), morning twilight will begin at 6:07 AM, sunrise will be at 7:05 AM, solar noon will be at 12:57:31 p.m. when the Sun will reach its maximum altitude of 47.6 degrees, sunset will be at 6:50 PM, and evening twilight will end at 7:47 PM.

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