How to See Tonight's Big, Bright Harvest Moon & Lunar Eclipse

The lunar eclipse part isn't necessarily guaranteed but don't worry, you won't miss much.

Getty Images / Mario Tama

It may not be as sexy and mysterious as the Super Blood Moon, but this year’s Harvest Moon will be a touch more interesting than the usual full moon for some parts of the world.

For those of us in North and South America, the moon will be big and bright — and that’s about it. But for Europe, Asia, Africa and the West Pacific, the moon won’t be quite as bright thanks to a slight lunar eclipse.

This eclipse won’t be anything like last year’s Super Blood Moon. That lunar event was the result of a full moon when the moon was closest to the Earth in its orbit, and the alignment of the Earth, sun, and moon that effectively put the moon in the Earth’s shadow.

This year, the full moon will be just catching the edge of Earth’s shadow, the part known as the penumbra. When the moon passes through the center of Earth’s shadow — the umbra — the eclipse looks like a chunk has been taken out of the moon. But the penumbra isn’t quite as dark as expected, so a penumbral eclipse just dims part of the moon a little bit. So basically: Tonight, the top part of the moon will be dimmer for everyone outside the Americas.

Everyone in the dark part of the map will miss out on the eclipse.

Fred Espenak

Otherwise, it’s just your typical Harvest Moon, one of those named full moons that occur throughout the year. The Buck Moon was back in July, and in June a full moon fell on the summer solstice. The Harvest Moon happens every fall and is simply the full moon closest to the autumn equinox; it’s known for providing enough light for farmers to stay in the fields longer, despite the shrinking days.

If you want to watch the penumbral eclipse, Slooh is live streaming it here.

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