USA TODAY - A stunning "harvest" full moon will rise in the eastern sky Thursday evening, and the nearly full moon will be visible each night through the weekend, barring pesky clouds.
The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which this year was Sept. 22. Harvest moons are rare in October: The harvest moon is typically in September, though it can occur as late as Oct. 7.
Why the "harvest" moon nickname? "In the days before tractors with headlights, having moonlight to work by was crucial to getting the harvest in quickly before rain caused it to rot," according to Alan MacRobert, an editor at Sky &Telescope magazine.
Many crops ripen all at once in late summer and early autumn, so farmers found themselves extremely busy at this time of year, according to NASA. They had to work after sundown. Moonlight became an essential part of farming and, thus, the harvest moon was born.
Looking for clear skies? The best views Thursday evening will be in the West, the Southeast (except for Florida) and New England, according to the National Weather Service:
Additionally, at moon rise, the moon is often reddened by clouds and dust. Moons near the horizon are also swollen to outlandish size by the moon illusion, a well-known but still mysterious trick of the eye that makes low-hanging moons seem much larger than they really are.
When you add these effects together, the harvest moon often looks like a great pumpkin, NASA said.
In other cultures, the October full moon was also known as the blood moon, the kindly moon and the blackberry moon.
The harvest moon was also the subject of this catchy pop standard from the early 1900s:
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