Moon Phases

Hunter’s Moon falls on October 28 in 2023

October full Hunter's Moon moon.
On the evening of October 28, 2023, the full Hunter’s Moon lights the sky near bright Jupiter. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Hunter’s Moon follows the Harvest Moon.

When and where to look in 2023: For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the bright, round full moon rises in the east around sunset for several nights in a row: October 27, 28, and 29. There’s a shorter-than-usual time between successive moonrises on these nights, so we see several nights of full-looking moons in twilight skies. For the Southern Hemisphere, the nights around this full moon feature a longer-than-usual time between successive moonrises. So, for the southern part of the globe, the moon will rise on these nights in a sky that is already dark.

Crest of the full moon falls at 20:24 UTC on October 28. That’s 3:24 p.m. CDT, and more than two hours before moonrise in central North America. The moon is roundest on the day when it is full, but the day before and the day after, the moon appears almost, but not quite full.

Full moon always lies opposite sun.
At full moon, the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned in space, with Earth in the middle. The moon’s day side – its fully lighted hemisphere – directly faces us. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

What is a Hunter’s Moon?

As seen from the entire globe, a full moon is always opposite the sun. So all full moons rise in the east around sunset. And all full moons set in the west around sunrise. But full moons have different characteristics, mostly related to their paths across the sky. And, shortly after they rise, full moons closest to the autumnal equinox follow a path across the Northern Hemisphere sky that makes a relatively narrow angle with respect to the eastern evening horizon.

So, in the early autumn (from either hemisphere), you might see a bright moon in the east shortly after sunset for several evenings in a row. That is the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the September equinox (for Northern Hemisphere viewers). The Hunter’s Moon is the name for the full moon following the Harvest Moon.

By the way, since the Harvest Moon is the closest full moon to the equinox, it can come either before or after it. So the Harvest Moon can sometimes fall in October, which it does every three or four years. When the Harvest Moon falls in October, the Hunter’s Moon – the full moon following the Harvest Moon – will fall in early November. That’ll happen next in 2025.

October full moon meets Jupiter

In 2023, Jupiter is the bright light shining directly below the full moon on the evening of October 28. Don’t worry, they are no where near each other in space. Jupiter lies over 1500 times farther than the moon!

2023 Hunter’s Moon is in Aries

The October Hunter’s Moon usually lies in front of one of three constellations of the zodiac. Most years, it sits in Pisces, the Fishes as it did last year and will next year. But it occasionally lands in Aries the Ram, as it does this year. Infrequently, it occurs in the large neighboring constellation to the south, Cetus the Whale.

Full moon in Aries.
The October 2023 full moon occurs on October 28 and lies in the constellation Aries. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

How did the Hunter’s Moon get its name?

There are many stories surrounding the names of the moons, including the Hunter’s Moon. From a practical standpoint, the Harvest Moon and subsequent Hunter’s Moon provided extra light in the evenings for farmers and hunters to finish their tasks.

Every full moon has a slew of nicknames tied to months of the year. But some moon names, such as the Harvest and Hunter’s Moons, are tied to seasons. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September, or autumnal equinox for the Northern Hemisphere. The equinox falls on either September 22 or 23. So most Harvest Moons come in September. But, every three or four years, the Harvest Moons falls in early October and the Hunter’s Moon lands in early November.

In North America, the Harvest Moon was a time when the bright moon meant farmers could stay out later, working in their fields, gathering in the crops before the first freeze. After the harvest, farmers would turn to hunting deer and other animals to bolster their food stores before winter. The bright light of the full moon and almost full moons would let them hunt into the evening hours. So, we call it a Hunter’s Moon.

What makes the Hunter’s Moon special?

Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the fall moonrises special. On average, the moons rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox – either a Harvest or a Hunter’s Moon, or both – the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises 25 to 30 minutes later daily for several evenings before and after the full moon. The reason is that the ecliptic – or, more exactly, the moon’s orbital path – makes a relatively narrow angle with the eastern horizon around the time of the autumnal equinox. The result is that there is a shorter-than-usual lag time between successive moonrises around the full Hunter’s Moon.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights from October 26 to 29. On these nights, you’ll see a bright round moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset.

A great source for moonrise times is the Custom Sunrise Sunset Calendar. Be sure to click the boxes for “moon phases” and “moonrise and moonset times.”

October and November full moons
Shortly after they rise, full moons closest to the September equinox follow a path across the Northern Hemisphere sky that makes a narrow angle with respect to the eastern evening horizon. So you might see a bright moon in the east shortly after sunset for several evenings in a row. These are the Harvest Moons and Hunter’s Moons. Note that by November the moon’s path with respect to the eastern evening horizon will be steeper. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Is the Hunter’s Moon bigger or brighter?

No. The Hunter’s Moon is just an ordinary full moon with a special path across our sky. Still, many of us do think that Hunter’s Moon looks bigger … or brighter … and more orange than usual. Why?

It’s because the Hunter’s Moon has a powerful mystique. Many people look for it shortly after sunset around the time of full moon. Shortly after sunset around any full moon, the moon will always be near the horizon because full moons are opposite the sun, and therefore, rise near the time of sunset (and set near the time of sunrise). Plus, it’s the location of the moon near the horizon that causes the Hunter’s Moon – or any moon – to look big and orange.

The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect. It stems from the fact that, when you look toward the horizon, you are looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when you gaze overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light, which is why the sky looks blue. The greater thickness of atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through to your eyes. So, any full moon near the horizon takes on a yellow, orange, or reddish hue.

And there’s the moon illusion

As for the bigger-than-usual size of the moon seen near the horizon, that is due to something else entirely. It’s a trick that your eyes are playing – an illusion – called the Moon Illusion. As a test, when viewing the moon through a drinking straw, compare the size of the full moon shortly after moonrise, and again two hours later when it is much higher in the sky.

Bottom line: The Hunter’s Moon – this year’s October full moon – is on October 28, 2023. Also, look for bright Jupiter near the full moon. Both are found in the constellation Aries.

October 28, 2023
Moon Phases

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