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The Harvest Moon of 2020 rises tonight! But why is it in October? – Space.com

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When the full moon shines tonight (Oct. 1), it will mark the Harvest Moon of 2020

If it seems a bit late to you, you’re not alone. Each year, the full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox and is thus christened the Harvest Moon. Usually this title goes to the September full moon. There are other versions of this rule that classify the Harvest Moon as the full moon that comes either at or just after the equinox, which, more-often-than-not, would also put it in October. But in the years between 1970 and 2050, the Harvest Moon falls in October no less than 17 times, and 2020 just happens to be one of those years. 

While the average occurrence of an October Harvest Moon is once every three years, sometimes as much as eight years can pass between such cases. In fact, the next time we will see a Harvest Moon in October will be in 2028. 

Related: Harvest Moon 2020: When and how to see October’s full moon

See the Harvest Moon?

If you see the 2020 Harvest Moon, let us know! Send images and comments to spacephotos@space.com to share your views.

Some skywatchers may think that the Harvest Moon remains in the night sky longer than any of the other full moons we see during the year, but that’s not the case. What sets tonight’s full moon apart from the others throughout the year is that farmers at the peak of the current harvest season can work late into the night by the brilliant moonlight. 

Tonight, the moon rises at about the same time as the sun sets. More importantly, at this time of year, instead of rising its normal average 50 minutes later each day, the moon appears to rise at nearly the same time each night. In actuality, over the next few nights, the rising of the moon as seen from mid-northern latitudes will come, on average, roughly 24 minutes later each night. The reason for this seasonal circumstance is that the moon appears to move along the ecliptic and at this time of year when rising, the ecliptic makes its smallest angle with respect to the horizon. 

Related: The moon: 10 wild lunar facts to wow your friends

According to Guy Ottewell, the long-time editor of the Astronomical Calendar (now no longer published annually), this moon was the Dying Grass Moon to the Sioux. It is also said to be the “most romantic day in China,” the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the man in the moon ties couples with invisible thread; people eat mooncakes (pastry filled with candied melon, egg-yolks, coconut and cashews), and at a festival in 1353 Zhang Shicheng gave the signal for uprising against the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty by sending messages in mooncakes, according to Ottewell.

And pay special attention to the day-after-Harvest moon on Friday (Oct. 2).

On that night it will be “escorted across the sky” by Mars, now shining with unaccustomed brilliance due to its unusual closeness to the Earth. Orange-yellow Mars will glow just above the almost full moon. 

Occurring on the first October, also means that the Harvest moon will be the first of two full moons this month. The second full moon comes on Halloween (Oct. 31) and will be christened the “Blue Moon.” 

Editor’s Note: If you snap a photo of night sky picture and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Rare 'blue moon' to appear on Halloween this year – North Shore News

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The year 2020 has brought many surprises and this year’s Halloween is no different.

A rare “blue full moon” will be appearing on Halloween night this year.

article continues below

While the moon will not look blue, the term “blue moon” is given when two full moons appear in a single month.

A full moon on Halloween occurs roughly once every 19 years – a pattern known as the Metonic Cycle.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanc, the cycle is uncommon and happens on average every two and a half to three years with the last time two full moons appearing in the same month in 2018.

The next illuminated Halloween full moon, says astronomers, after 2020 will be in the 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.

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Rare 'blue moon' to appear on Halloween this year – The Tri-City News

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The year 2020 has brought many surprises and this year’s Halloween is no different.

A rare “blue full moon” will be appearing on Halloween night this year.

article continues below

While the moon will not look blue, the term “blue moon” is given when two full moons appear in a single month.

A full moon on Halloween occurs roughly once every 19 years – a pattern known as the Metonic Cycle.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanc, the cycle is uncommon and happens on average every two and a half to three years with the last time two full moons appearing in the same month in 2018.

The next illuminated Halloween full moon, says astronomers, after 2020 will be in the 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx grabs rocks from asteroid in historic mission – Al Jazeera English

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A NASA spacecraft touched down on the rugged surface of the Bennu asteroid on Tuesday, grabbing a sample of rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system to bring home.

It was a first for the United States – only Japan has previously secured asteroid samples.

The so-called “Touch-And-Go” manoeuvre was managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where at 6.12pm (22:12 GMT) on Tuesday an announcer said: “Touchdown declared. Sampling is in progress,” and scientists erupted in celebration.

Seconds later, the Lockheed mission operator Estelle Church confirmed the spacecraft had eased away from the space rock after making contact, announcing: “Sample collection is complete and the back-away burn has executed.”

The historic mission was 12 years in the making and rested on a critical 16-second period where the minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft extended its 11-foot (3.35-metre) robotic arm towards a flat patch of gravel near Bennu’s north pole and plucked the sample of rocks – NASA’s first handful of pristine asteroid rocks.

The probe will send back images of the sample collection on Wednesday and throughout the week so scientists can examine how much material was retrieved and determine whether the probe will need to make another collection attempt.

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu was composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km) [NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters]

Scientists want at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and, ideally, closer to 4 pounds (2 kilogrammes) of Bennu’s black, crumbly, carbon-rich material – thought to contain the building blocks of the solar system. The asteroid is located more than 200 million miles (321.9 million kms) from Earth.

NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, likened Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: “Something that’s out there and tells the history of our entire Earth, of the solar system, during the last billions of years.”

‘Exactly perfect’

If a successful collection is confirmed, the spacecraft will begin its journey back towards Earth, arriving in 2023.

“Everything went just exactly perfect,” Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator from the University of Arizona, Tucson, said on a NASA live feed from Lockheed’s mission support building. “We have overcome the amazing challenges that this asteroid has thrown at us, and the spacecraft appears to have operated flawlessly.”

The robotic arm’s collection device, shaped like an oversized shower head, is designed to release pressurised gas to kick up debris.

The spacecraft launched in 2016 from Kennedy Space Center for the journey to Bennu. It has been in orbit around the asteroid for nearly two years preparing for the Touch and Go manoeuvre.

Bennu, which is more than 4.5 billion years old, was selected as a target because scientists believe it is a small fragment of what was once a much larger space rock that broke off during a collision between two asteroids early on in the history of the solar system.

“Asteroids are like time capsules floating in space that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system,” Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of Planetary Science, told Al Jazeera. “They can provide valuable information about how planets, like our own, came to be.”

Thanks to data collected from orbit, the NASA team has determined two key discoveries: first, that between 5 and 10 percent of Bennu’s mass is water, and second, that its surface is littered with carbon-rich molecules. Atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could help scientists better understand what role asteroids played in bringing water to the Earth and seeding it with the prebiotic material that provided the building blocks for life.

Studying that material could also help scientists discover whether life exists elsewhere in the solar system, as well.

“If this kind of chemistry is happening in the early solar system, it probably happened in other solar systems as well,” Lauretta, OSIRIS-Rex’s principal investigator, told Al Jazeera in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s breakthrough. “It helps us assess the likelihood of the origin of life occurring throughout the galaxy and, ultimately, throughout the universe.”

Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission – in the milligramMEs at most – to land in the Australian desert in December.

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