It’s that time again, time for another full moon. The one that falls directly after the Harvest Moon(which was Sept. 19) is called the Hunter’s Moon, and it happens this Friday night, Oct. 18. The best time to view it is 7:38 p.m. Eastern — though of course it shines brightly all night long.
Plus, there’s a lunar eclipse happening, too. It’s subtle, however, not a total eclipse but what’s called a penumbral eclipse, when the Earth’s outer shadow partially covers the lunar being. “You might see a little darkening. It happens very gradually. It’s not like a snap of the fingers,” Jim O’Leary, senior scientist at the Maryland Science Center, told Weather.com. That event begins around 5:50 p.m. eastern, peaks around at 7:50 p.m. and ends around 9:50 p.m., he added.
The total package should make for some pleasant sky gazing of this cool moon.
Its name — one of several catchy monikers including the Blood Moon and the Sanguine Moon — reputedly comes from those who used the light to their advantage, according to Science@NASA. “Hunters … tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead,” writes NASA’s Tony Phillips. “You can picture them: Silent figures padding through the forest, the moon overhead, pale as a corpse, its cold light betraying the creatures of the wood.”
Chinese lore also describes this moon as the Kindly Moon, reports the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, and the Lakota Sioux called it the Moon When Quilling and Beading Were Done.
The Hunter’s Moon isn’t just any full moon. Like with other moons this time of year, its path — called an ecliptic — is shallow. That means for several nights in a row, the moon sits farther north on the horizon, according to EarthSky. “It’s this northward movement of the moon along the eastern horizon at moonrise,” EarthSky writes, “that gives the Hunter’s Moon its magic.”
Typically this time of year, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. Say it appeared in the night sky at 7:00 p.m. today, tomorrow it would show up around 7:50 p.m. For several days around the Hunter’s Moon, however, it only rises 30 to 35 minutes later. (In that same example, it would emerge at 7:00 p.m. tonight, 7:30 p.m. the next.)
Why does this matter? Well, if you lived at a time when you needed the moonlight to harvest and hunt by, it clearly did. “The light of moon allowed farmers to harvest their crops later into the night,” O’Leary said of the September Harvest Moon. By the Hunter’s Moon in October, “it’s time to go hunting for Thanksgiving and the fall. The prey is easier to find. Rather than the moon being up in the sky an hour or two after sunset, it’s up in the sky sooner…. There’s less of a period of darkness.”
So go out and enjoy. But be warned: “While you’re staring at the sky, you might hear footsteps among the trees, the twang of a bow, a desperate scurry to shelter,” NASA’s Phillips writes. “That’s just your imagination.”