Skywatchers are in for a treat the next three nights, as September’s Full Corn Moon rises in the sky.
With the autumn equinox occurring toward the end of September, this week’s moon will be the last full moon of summer.
It becomes officially full early Wednesday morning, but from moonrise tonight – and through the next few nights – it will look like a full moon.
To understand some of the stories around the September full moon, we checked in with the Farmer’s Almanac and the folks at NASA who keep an eye on sky events. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits we found:
#1 Why it’s not the Harvest Moon: Since the calendar has flipped to September, many people think any moon that rises this month should be dubbed a Harvest Moon. But the moon rules appear to be a bit tricky when it comes to this. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains it this way:
“The full Moon that happens nearest to the autumnal equinox always takes on the name “Harvest Moon” instead of a traditional name — a rule that often places the Harvest Moon in the month of September. However, when September’s full moon occurs early in the month, the full moon of early October lands nearest to the autumnal equinox and therefore takes on the Harvest Moon title instead.”
#2 September’s full moon has lots of names: The Full Corn Moon is one of the most common names, but there are a handful of others, depending on where you live. Because it’s the last full moon of summer, the Algonquin tribes along the East Coast called it the Corn Moon, as it coincided with gathering crops of corn, squash, beans and other late-summer garden staples.
Gordon Johnston also pulled together a lot of details about this month’s full moon history on his recent NASA blog:
“European names for this full Moon are the Fruit Moon, as a number of fruits ripen as the end of summer approaches, and the Barley Moon, from the harvesting and threshing of the barley.”
“This full moon corresponds to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is the Ghost Month and the fifteenth day of this month (a full moon day) is called Ghost Day, on which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, come out to visit the living.”
Johnston also gets into a whole lot of nifty stargazing and skywatching facts for September. You can check out his blog here.
#3 The Celtic practice of calling it the Wine Moon sounds much more romantic: Mary Stewart Adams, a star lore historian from Michigan, has a regular show on Interlochen Public Radio called “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” In her recent piece, she talks about how Celts call this moon the Full Wine Moon, and gives a bit of its history:
“In rooting around for why this name, what I have come to imagine is that the Wine Moon is so-named because the sun is setting right now in the vicinity of the constellation Virgo, where we find the star Vindemiatrix. Vindemiatrix is the grape gatherer, described as the “fruit-plucking herald,” which suggests that wine bears a secret message.”