October 5, 2009

While the moon is always something special, the harvest moon, visible all of this coming week, is the most special of all. It is the subject of everything from epic poetry to popular songs. What better place to view it than from the hot tub? Don’t miss this opportunity to soak and bask in the beautiful harvest moon.

What makes the harvest moon so special? Mainly it’s the path it’s following this week. The moon always travels close to the ecliptic, the path of the sun and planets in the sky, but this week the ecliptic is at a particularly shallow angle to the horizon. The result is that the moon never gets too far above the horizon all night long for a number of nights in a row, putting it literally “in your face.”

There is a well known but poorly understood optical illusion known as the “moon illusion,” whereby the moon, when low in the sky, appears much larger than it does when high overhead. This really is an illusion, as you can see for yourself by blocking the moon with a finger held at arm’s length: the moon is no bigger on the horizon than overhead.

When the moon is low in the sky, it is also strongly subject to appearing yellow, orange, or red due to air pollution, particularly caused by forest fires this time of year.

There will be a succession of nights with a bright moon low on the eastern horizon, lighting up the land just as the sun sets opposite it. This gives a few extra hours of light to farmers out harvesting their crops. Hence the name: harvest moon.

The harvest moon, while beautiful to look at, also presents some great photo opportunities. The trick to capturing the harvest moon in a photograph is first, to zoom in with your telephoto lens to make the moon appear larger, and secondly, to underexpose the picture by a couple of stops, to darken the landscape, saturate the colors, and expose the moon properly.

Good luck! Send in your best harvest moon photos form the hot tub to:


SANUM PER AQUA. Latin for Health through Water.