CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - If you love astronomy, you’ll want to make sure to enjoy this weekend’s full Hunter’s Moon, which will be visible starting on Sunday.
That’s the name given to the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the last full moon before the autumnal equinox, according to South Carolina State Museum Observatory Manager Matthew Whitehouse.
The moon will appear orange when it is near the horizon, a phenomenon that occurs because we are seeing the moon through the haze of the atmosphere, Whitehouse said. As the moon rises above the horizon, that orange coloring will fade and it will become its more familiar white.
The moon may initially appear larger on the horizon as well, he said, because of an optical illusion known as the “moon illusion.”
“It’s a trick of the eye,” he said, adding that as the moon rises, it will appear normal in size.
Whitehouse says you should be able to see the moon if you look east, but you’ll want to make sure your view isn’t obstructed by trees or buildings.
“Beaches will be a very cool place to see it,” he said. “It should be very photogenic.”
The Hunter’s Moon was culturally significant to Native Americans, who used it as a signal for hunting season at a time of year when fields had been harvested and deer were fattened up. Because the Hunter’s Moon appeared in the sky before sunset and ended up extending the amount of light, it was also used as a signal to Native American hunters to begin heading home, he said.
Algonquin and Iroquois Indians also called the Hunter’s Moon the Travel Moon or the Dying Grass Moon, Whitehouse said.
Cultural astronomy, the study of how beliefs about the skies, stars, planets and moons impact society, shows that on the other side of the world in India, festivals occurred when the Hunter’s Moon signaled the time when monsoon rains ended, he said.
The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first known use of the term “Hunter’s Moon” in 1710.
NASA says the moon will be visible and will appear “opposite” the sun and will appear full through Tuesday. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the moon’s rise over the Charleston area at approximately 7:07 p.m. on Sunday.
The Harvest Moon this year occurred last month on Friday the 13, the first time since the Harvest Moon appeared on that date since October 2000. The next time the Harvest Moon appears on that famed “unlucky” day will be in August 2049.