On Oct. 9, the full Hunter’s Moon rose once again, reaching peak illumination at approximately 4:54 p.m. ET (8:54 p.m. UTC). As with all full moons, the moon appeared bright and full during the night before and the night after the peak, offering skywatchers three chances to bask in the autumn moonlight.
The best time to watch the full moon is around sunset, when the moon rose over the horizon, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. When the moon is low in the sky, it may also appear larger and brighter than usual thanks to a well-known optical illusion, known as the moon illusion. Essentially, your brain perceives the moon as larger when it rises near smaller objects like treetops and skyscrapers, rather than when it is high in the vast and empty sky.
The moon’s light was partially outshining the Draconid meteor shower, which is also predicted to peak on the night of Oct. 9. Try to look high in the sky after nightfall to catch sight of a few more shooting stars than usual.
While many full moon nicknames stem from Native American traditions, October’s Hunter’s Moon is an exception. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, which began publishing Native American moon names in the 1930s, both the Hunter’s Moon as well as September’s Harvest Moon are tied to the autumn equinox — the official start of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Harvest Moon is the name given to the full moon that falls closest to the equinox, meaning it can occur in either September or October, while the Hunter’s Moon is the full moon that follows the Harvest Moon. Traditionally, farmers harvested their crops by the light of the Harvest Moon, then went hunting for animals who came out to root through the scraps during the following months.
About once a month, the full moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon align on an invisible 180-degree line. The moon’s orbit is about 5 degrees different from Earth’s, so our satellite is usually a little higher or lower than Earth’s shadow, enabling the sun’s rays to illuminate the side facing Earth.
The next full moon is November’s Beaver Moon, or Snow Moon, which rises on Nov. 8.