Spooky season: Harvest moon rises tonight followed by blue moon on Halloween

It’s no trick.

While holiday festivities the world over have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, there’s an uncanny treat in store this month: a full moon on the 1st and 31st, making Halloween’s a “blue” moon.

October’s first full moon will rise tonight at 5:05 p.m. Eastern time. So-called the “harvest moon,” this lunar event is pegged to the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox, and was said to light the way for farmers forced to harvest late into the night, according to Farmers’ Almanac.

Historically, the harvest moon would arrive in September, as it did in 2019 on Friday the 13th, but the tenth full moon of 2020 arrived later than usual, paving the way for a rare blue moon to occur on Halloween night, rising at 10:49 a.m. that day — which guarantees visibility across all times zones on the 31st.

Blue moons, as the saying goes, are a relatively rare event, with a schedule that returns every two to three years. Each calendar year will have 12 full moons, about one per month or three per season. Technically, one called a blue moon can be either the second full moon in a single calendar month, or the third full moon out of a rare four in a single season.

This month’s blue moon, an example of the former, will be the first full moon of any kind to happen globally on Halloween night since 1944. However, in certain time zones, a Halloween full moon comes around slightly more often — every 19 years.

However, avid skywatchers may be over the moon for another scarce celestial affair starting Oct. 2: Mars’ mingling with the moon. The pair will beam cheek-to-cheek during the first several days of this month, as the red planet peeks from just behind the moon. In some parts of the world, stargazers can watch the moon pass over Mars entirely — called an “occult” — and see it re-emerge from behind hours later.

Then, beginning at 10:18 a.m. on Oct. 6, our celestial neighbor will be “in perigee” — when its orbit is nearest our planet — at just 38.57 million miles. (For perspective, the moon is an average of 238,900 miles away.) Astronomers say it won’t come this close again for another 15 years, although that still doesn’t beat its 2003 record, which was about 3 million miles closer than what’s expected on Tuesday. That won’t happen again for another 267 years, on August 28, 2287.

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