Harvest Moon 2013: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Harvest Moon

More than 100 years ago, the vaudeville star Nora Bayes and her then-husband, Jack Norworth, debuted the popular Shine On, Harvest Moon (1908). In 1992, Canadian musician Neil Young sang, "there's a full moon risin', let's go dancin' in the light" in his song, Harvest Moon. With this year's harvest moon rising on Wednesday, you may ask: What's so special about the harvest moon?

A typical harvest moon doesn't looks any different from a regular full moon. It's simply a name for the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (the official start of the fall) and rises between September 8 (as will be the case in 2014) and October 7 (as in 1987). Unlike other nights when the moon rises about 50 minutes later than the day before, the harvest moon (and the hunter's moon, the next full moon after harvest moon) rises about 30 minutes later from its previous night.

It gets its name from the days before electric lights. The "shorter-than-usual time between moon rises" meant "no long period of darkness" after sunset for successive days. NASA's Tony Phillips wrote, as "farmers depended on bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset," it was "always a welcoming sight."

At times, however, the Harvest Moon can also be a supermoon, a brighter and larger (looking) moon that is observable when the moon is orbiting closer to Earth. The last so-called Super Harvest Moon happened in 2010 and is expected again in 2029.

So for anyone who is disappointed, here are some interesting moon names (in Northern hemisphere) as you wait until the next supermoon on August 10, 2014 or Blue Moon — an extra full moon — in 2016: beaver moon (November), wolf moon (January), egg moon (April), and strawberry moon (June).