If you looked up at the sky this week you may have noticed that the moon was not the yellow color you are used to seeing. Instead of the pale yellow of sharp cheddar our celestial friend appeared to be a giant pumpkin in the sky.
The harvest moon is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can happen anytime of the year but is more pronounced during Fall. This spectacular event is marked by a moon that appears larger than normal and has a pronounced orange hue.
There are to factors that contribute to this phenomenon. The first is caused by the moon’s path through the atmosphere. The path of the moon is closer to the horizon during the fall months causing it to appear much larger than normal. The second factor, the orange color, is caused mostly by human activity.
When the moon is closer to the horizon the light reflected off of it has to travel farther through the atmosphere before it is seen by a viewer on the earth’s surface. This means that the light is more affected by particulates in the atmosphere. At the end of the summer when the ground is dry more dust is trapped in the atmosphere. This dust filters out green and blue light causing the moon to appear orange.
The term “Harvest Moon” comes from the fact that in the fall when farmers were harvesting their crops causing even more dust and plant matter is kicked up into the atmosphere.