Harvest Moon Lunar Eclipse Thrills Skywatchers

Harvest Moon moonrise over Sesimbra Castle, Portugal
The Harvest Moon rises over Sesimbra Castle, Portugal. This image was taken by Miguel Claro, who said the disc of the moon reached 100% illumination exactly at the same time it was rising in the Portuguese sky. (Image credit: Miguel Claro)

The Harvest Moon shone bright on Friday night (Sept. 16), and lucky skywatchers in some parts of the world were in for a rare treat as a subtle lunar eclipse coincided with the dazzling full moon.

Only viewers in Africa, Asia and Australia were able to see the shadowy eclipse, which is known as a "penumbral" lunar eclipse. But the full Harvest Moon was visible in clear skies anywhere on Earth. Check out our full gallery of reader-submitted penumbral Harvest Moon eclipse photos here: Harvest Moon Lunar Eclipse of 2016.

During a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the outskirts of Earth's shadow. The shadow cast by Earth causes the moon to appear slightly darker than usual for a few minutes. The difference is subtle and not easy to see with the naked eye.

Photographer Stojan Stojanovski captured this photo of the penumbral Harvest Moon eclipse at maximum over Macedonia. (Image credit: Stojan Stojanovski)


Photographers around the world were able to capture the Harvest Moon — with or without the penumbral eclipse — in its full glory Friday night. The moon still appeared full for a few days before and after its peak. The photo above shows the lunar eclipse at its maximum. It was taken by Stojan Stojanovski near Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.

Muhammaed Rayhan of the Jakarta Planetarium & Observatory in Indonesia was able to observe the eclipse with the naked eye. As he watched, the north side of the moon became noticably darker. 

The Harvest Moon over Indonesia during a penumbral lunar eclipse. This photo taken by Muhammad Rayhan shows the Harvest Moon eclipse as seen from the Jakarta Planetarium & Observatory in Indonesia. (Image credit: Muhammad Rayhan)

Skywatchers who weren't lucky enough to see the lunar eclipse still captured great views of the Harvest Moon. Photographer Austin Bond captured this time-lapse video of a Harvest Moon rising over Garden City Beach in South Carolina:

September's full moon is called the Harvest Moon because the bright moonlight helps to illuminate fields where farmers might be doing some late-night farming during the fall harvest season. 

In this photo by Stuart McNair, the rising Harvest Moon illuminates farmland during sunset on Sept. 15, 2016 north of Toronto, Canada. (Image credit: Stuart McNair)

"This was the scene just north of Toronto, Ontario but representative of fields everywhere as the low-lying full Harvest Moon provided additional light for farmers to harvest their crops," said Stuart McNair, who took the photo above. "In this case, the farmer is bailing hay and the geese are about to settle down for the night as the sunlight gives way to moonlight."

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.