How to watch the harvest moon

harvest moon
2013 Harvest Moon in Washington, DC.

Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

Don’t forget to look outside at sunset on Thursday.

The 2017 harvest moon will rise just after the sun sets on
October 5, appearing in the waning light.

This particular moon tends to appear massive and often takes on a
reddish-orange color, not unlike a “great pumpkin,”
as NASA explains

While it might appear to be a cosmic signifier of fall, the
changes in color are due to the effects of clouds and dust in the
sky. And the harvest moon’s seemingly enormous size is due to an

optical effect
known as the “moon illusion,” which makes
low-hanging moons appear to be much larger than they will when
they rise higher into the sky.

The thing that
gives the phenomenon the name
“harvest moon” is simply
the fact that this is the closest full moon to the autumnal
equinox, which happened on September 22. This is
a rare
type of harvest moon, however, since it’s appearing in
October, not September.

To watch it, you just need a clear view of the sky. In New York
City, the sun will set on October 5 at 6:31 p.m. ET and the moon
will rise at 6:51 p.m. ET. You can check your local
exact sunset and moonrise times here

For a preview, check out the sky tonight. You’ll still
see an almost-full moon rising at a similar (though slightly
earlier) time. Often, some of these harvest moon traits can be
observed for a few days before and after the main event.

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