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Hunter’s Moon brightens the early morning sky

Sunday, October 20th, 2013 7:05am MST

Sunday morning the virtually full moon brightened the landscape.  Captured just before dawn, the image below is technically two days late to be one of the truly full Hunter’s moon but it still appears fully lit.

The Hunter’s Moon is the traditional term for the second full moon of autumn, following the Harvest Moon, the first of the season.  Typically this makes it the full moon we see in October but it can sometimes fall in November.

The name is popularly attributed to Native Americans and said to be named such because it meant it was time to go hunting and prepare for the arrival of winter.

More than folklore, there is something unique about the Hunter’s Moon.  See below the image for more details.

A very bright moon lights up the landscape two days after the full Hunter’s Moon.  Click the image for a larger view.

A very bright moon lights up the landscape two days after the full Hunter’s Moon. Click the image for a larger view. (ThorntonWeather.com)

From EarthSky.org:

But the Hunter’s Moon is also more than just a name. Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the full moonrises unique around this time.

Here’s what happens. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox – either a Harvest or a Hunter’s Moon – the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises only about 30 to 35 minutes later daily for several days before and after the full moon.

Why? The reason is that the ecliptic – or the moon’s orbital path – makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon around the time of the autumn equinox. The narrow angle of the ecliptic results in a shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the full Hunter’s Moon.

These early evening moonrises are what make every Hunter’s Moon special. Every full moon rises around sunset. After the full Hunter’s Moon, you’ll see the moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset for a few days in a row at northerly latitudes.

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