This week is the “harvest moon.” What does this mean exactly, and what is the “hunter moon” that comes next?

The gigantic, orange globe sitting on the horizon may look like a celestial pumpkin, but it will actually be the harvest moon. (It is also known as the wine moon, the singing moon, or the elk call moon.)

The harvest moon happens once a year. It is the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox. This lunar phenomenon is often mistaken for the hunter’s moon.  The hunter’s moon, which is also known as the blood or

sanguinemoon, is the first full moon after the harvest moon.

All full moons make their appearance around the time of sunset. But unlike the ascension of other full moons, there is no period of darkness between sunset and the moonrise of the harvest moon.

This special moon got its name because the immediate moonlight allowed farmers to continue harvesting even after the sun had set.

(If you ever get an email claiming that it will look like there are two moons in the sky, arm yourself with information; here’s the real story.)

The harvest moon can seem larger, brighter, more colorful, and just all around more dramatic than the moon we’re used to seeing. The lovely, autumn color of the harvest on the horizon is caused by light from the moon passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles. This is true for all celestial bodies when they are low in the sky.

Don’t be alarmed if you experience what’s known as Moon Illusion. This is an optical illusion noted since ancient times where the moon appears larger closer to the horizon than it does higher up in the sky.

On lunar topics, consider the word honeymoon. What does the “moon” part of it actually refer to? It’s not a happy story, but it is fun. Learn the answer, here.