Chasing the Harvest Moon Up the Central Oregon Coast
(Yachats, Oregon) – About 8 p.m. Saturday night, Yachats looked like this: a dozen different colors glowing like surreal Christmas lights, all reflected on the bay, as a powerful full moon lit up the sky until it seemed like daylight.
It turns out, this was the Harvest Moon – and it gave cause for Oregon Coast Beach Connection to try and capture it along the length of Lincoln County.
Jim Todd, planetarium manager for OMSI in Portland, said September's full moon is called the Harvest Moon, referring to the fact it's the full moon that comes closest to the first day of fall. The autumnal equinox happens on or around September 22 every year, so the Harvest Moon can occur just past or just before the equinox.
This year, the Harvest Moon hit its full phase at 8:19 p.m. last night, right about the time this photo was taken, showing the full moon over the Yachats River.
Todd said this moon would first appear as a large orange full moon in the east, just before sunset. At this part of the central Oregon coast, there were too many mountains to the east to see that. But it did poke its head over the hills east of Yachats just after sunset, a bit after 7 a.m.
“The bigger-than-usual size of a moon seen near the horizon is a trick your eyes play on you, called 'the moon illusion,' “ Todd said. “The illusion is a matter of perception, a trick of the brain, which perceives the Moon when seen overhead as closer than the Moon seen at the horizon. When an object is perceived to be nearer, the brain may compensate by making it look smaller to us. Likewise, an object thought to be farther away will be seen as larger.”
Like the shot of Yachats at the top, sometimes what the moon makes the rest of the landscape look like is more important than what it looks like in the sky. A bit closer to 9 p.m., the moon cast this ethereal glow at Beachside State Park, between Yachats and Waldport.
Around 9 p.m., in Waldport, the moon looked like this.
About 9:35 p.m., this was Newport's Yaquina Bay and its bridge, framed by the glow of the moon.
Again, there are moments when what really shines about the moon is the way it interacts with the Earth. Case in point: fab Newport restaurant and bar Bay 839 has a dockside outdoor section that was not only bathed in moonlight but awash in the dreamlike colors from lights around Yaquina Bay.
Skipping ahead a few hours, to the wee hours of Sunday morning, the moon and the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay seemed to be getting along nicely.
Photographs like this are one of the many aesthetic pleasures we derive from our sister heavenly body. But in ancient times, the moon was even more important, Todd said.
“Before the advent of artificial lighting, our ancestors were acutely aware of the daylight hours waning more rapidly around the autumnal equinox - the time when the Sun rises due east and sets due west - than at any other time of year,” Todd said. “But back then, people also understood lunar behavior, harvesting by the light of the Moon.”
Each full Moon during the year has been named throughout the years; next month's full Moon is the Hunter’s Moon, and it will come this year on October 29.
Below: a closeup of the moon from Oregon Coast Beach Connection's camera team.
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