Home / Science / Capture the October harvest moon while you wait for the rare blue Halloween moon

Capture the October harvest moon while you wait for the rare blue Halloween moon


A bright full moon rises at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017.

NASA / Kim Shiflett

Take a break from the chaos of the world on Friday night and go see the near full moon. The night show is seen in all parts of the United States, weather permitting, says Jeffrey Hunt, an astronomy teacher and former planetarium director. This full moon is romantically called the “harvest moon”, as it is the closest full moon to early autumn.

“The moon is only full for one night (October 1), although it appears full on the nights before and after the official full phase,” Hunt said. “Before and after, it’s 98% full”.

The harvest moon will no longer look full after Friday night, but it’s just a preview for the second full moon of the month, which happens on Halloween. That full moon is called the blue moon, because it is the second full moon of the same month. And in a rarity, the full moon of Halloween 2020 will be visible to the whole world, rather than just parts of it, for the first time since World War II.

“When I was teaching, my high school students thought every Halloween was a full moon,” Hunt told me. Not really, although pop culture decorations definitely make it look that way. The last visible worldwide Halloween full moon came in 1944, he said. He wrote about the event on his website, When the Curves Line Up. There was a full Halloween moon for some locations in 1955, but that didn’t include western North America and the western Pacific, Hunt says.

While this year’s Halloween full moon will be visible in all parts of the globe, that doesn’t mean every single citizen will have a view. Residents of both North America and South America will see it, as well as India, all of Europe, and much of Asia. But while Western Australians will see it, those in the central and eastern parts of the country will not.

Do you know time zones well? “Every time zone has it except those east of (GMT) +8 if they have daylight saving time, or (GMT) +9 without daylight saving time,” Hunt says.

Do you want to see the full moon on Halloween? It is so bright in the full phase that it doesn’t matter if you are in a crowded city or on a farm. And you don’t need expensive equipment.

“Go out and take a look,” says Hunt.

Don’t be surprised, though, if you snap a Halloween moon with your phone and the photo doesn’t match what you saw.

“When the moon is photographed with a smartphone, the results can be disappointing,” admits Hunt. “A telephoto lens will help magnify the moon.”

If you’re too busy watching horror movies (or doing whatever the coronavirus equivalent of trick or treating is), you’ll have to wait until 2039 for another global full moon.

“Of course, full moons occur in October during the following years, but not on Halloween,” says Hunt. And a full moon on Halloween may appear in your region before then. It just won’t be seen all over the world.

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