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Friday Night's Spectacular Harvest Moon May Be Eclipsed

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Get your binoculars and telescopes ready: we're in for a rare treat as a spectacular harvest moon is set to rise tonight, Sept. 16.

Friday night's moon is the last full moon before the autumnal equinox begins on Sept. 22, making it a harvest moon. Historically, harvest moons have given farmers more time in the light to yield crops.

But that's not all, because Friday night's moon might just be a triple threat.

The lush and bright full moon will darken for a time as it becomes eclipsed by the Earth's shadow, resulting in a natural phenomenon known as a penumbral lunar eclipse. However, it won't be completely dark, but the light will be dimmed.

Is It A Supermoon?

There's also discussions as to whether this year's harvest moon is also a supermoon.

In 2015, the harvest moon was a supermoon, which happens when our natural satellite makes its closest approach to Earth. At the same time, the moon was turned into a ruddy hue because of a total lunar eclipse.

Tonight, the penumbral lunar eclipse will darken the moon once again, but scientists have yet to consider it as a supermoon.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the debate as to whether tonight's moon will be a supermoon has sparked from a definition by Fred Espenak, a former NASA astrophysicist.

Espenak and Richard Nolle — an astrologer who coined the term "supermoon" — have both compiled lists of every supermoon in the 21st century, but there are discrepancies in their method.

For instance, Nolle based his list on averages from yearly projections of the moon's orbit. On the other hand, Espenak based his compilations on monthly means.

When And Where To Watch The Harvest Moon

Unfortunately, residents in America won't be able to catch a glimpse of the penumbra solar eclipse. But if you're living in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the western Pacific basin, you will probably get the best view of Friday's harvest moon.

Furthermore, the dimmest and deepest phase of the penumbral lunar eclipse may take place at 2:54 p.m. ET (18:54 GMT).

Still, the moon in the Western hemisphere will remain particularly bright and spectacular, making it a perfect opportunity to view some detailed craters through the use of a telescope. Some residents may be able to see the moon appearing more colorful or larger than normal.

You can check out EclipseWise for more details about the harvest moon. 

We hope you get a glimpse of tonight's full moon, especially because it's the last harvest moon eclipse of any kind until 2024. Happy moon-gazing!

Photo: Jon Bunting | Flickr

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