We are approaching the official beginning of fall!
September 23 marks the beginning of leaving behind long hot summer days and welcoming long starry nights. That’s because day and night become equal length after the fall equinox.
Fall isn’t just all about haunted houses and pumpkin-flavored things. This time of year marks less daylight compared to the summer days. However, that just means more time to look up at the stars.
Friday the 13th Full Moon
It makes sense that Mother Nature teases us for the upcoming spooky season. On Friday the 13th, a full moon rolls over the night sky.
This isn’t just any regular full moon though. It’s a Harvest Moon which means it takes place nearest the autumnal equinox. Historically, this particular full bright moon allowed farmers to work later in the night thanks to the moon’s guiding light.
“So the autumn equinox is when the sun is exactly in between its most extreme point for the year. It’s going to rise exactly east and set exactly west and it only does that twice a year. During this time the moon will rise about 30 min later than normal. The full moon rises around sunset. So for three days in a row, we’ll have a moon that’s full or nearly full rising shortly after sunset.. allowing it to give off enough light into the night to read a newspaper,” says Rosa Williams, Columbus State University professor and Head of west rock observatory, coca-cola space science center.
Oh, but there’s more.
This special Friday the 13th full Harvest Moon is also classified as a micromoon. It’s exactly what it sounds like — the moon will look smaller than most other full moons. The moon will be farthest away in its orbit from Earth.
So, a micromoon makes the whole Friday the 13th full moon idea less intimidating now.
It’s still pretty cool all of these lunar occurrences are falling on the same day, though. A spooky moon like this won’t happen again until Aug. 13, 2049.
Pretty moon crescents
Just because an interesting full moon is approaching, doesn’t mean forget about the crescent moons. Because the new moon falls around the end of the month right now, the crescent moons peek out at dusk at the beginning of the month and at predawn at the end.
Preston Dyches from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives you the whole run down. Here’s what he had to say about September’s night sky:
This month, look low in the west about half an hour after sunset to enjoy the crescent moon on September 1st through the 4th, with the Moon appearing a bit higher in the sky each night. By the 5th, the first-quarter (that is, half-full) Moon winds up here, just a couple of degrees to the right of Jupiter.
At the end of the month, from September 23rd to the 27th, look east half an hour before dawn for an increasingly slimmer crescent, that appears lower in the sky each day.
Where is Mars?
Finally, say “bye-bye” to Mars. The Red Planet tucked away behind the Sun for a few weeks in an event called solar conjunction.
By the end of July, Mars slowly drifted into the Sun’s glare to completely disappear from our skies altogether. Because of that, mission controllers on Earth fall silent with communication to Mars’s spacecrafts. But don’t worry, NASA will say hello again to Mars in just a few weeks after the planet moves out from behind the Sun.