Today marks a very unique and fascinating astronomical sight: it’s Friday the 13th, a full moon, a red Harvest Moon and a micro-moon all at once. The last time a full moon fell on Friday the 13th was in 1998, and the next time it will do so is in 2049.
That means it’ll be thirty years before another day as unlucky and magical as this comes around again!
The term “Harvest Moon” refers to the full moon that is closest to the Autumnal Equinox. It got its name due to the time of year it appears and how long it’s visible in the sky. Due to the Earth and Moon’s orbits, there are parts of the year when the moon is visible for more time when the sun isn’t out. The Harvest Moon is visible almost immediately as the sun sinks over the horizon.
This meant that back before artificial lighting, farmers could work for longer to bring in the harvest under the light of this Harvest Moon. The full moon, in particular, helped to mark when the harvest season was in full swing and lit the farmer’s work into the evening.
The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, much like the Earth’s orbit around the sun. When the moon is at the furthest point in its orbit from Earth, known as its apogee, it appears much smaller from our point of view than it normally does.
This is often referred to by casual onlookers as a “micro-moon,” a phenomenon that doesn’t often overlap with full moons from Earth’s perspective. As such, the convergence of today’s full moon, micro-moon and Friday the 13th date make it particularly special. In fact, the next full micro-moon isn’t until October 1st, 2020.
Friday the 13th
A common “unlucky day” in American folklore and superstition, Friday the 13th has long been linked to bad luck and ill omens. Likewise, the light of the full moon is said to make people act crazier, with the root of the word lunatic being derived from the Latin word for “moon.”
Understandably, putting them together makes superstitious people more than a little uneasy.