Last night we got to witness a rare astronomical event. We were able to view a “Super” Harvest Moon. This happens when the full moon falls on the same night as the autumnal equinox. The sun sets at just about the same time that the moon rises, and does so in a nearly precise east-west fashion.
According to Space.com…
The full moon of September arrived on the same night as the autumnal equinox, which occurred last night at 11:09 p.m. EDT (0309 GMT Sept. 23) to mark the official start of the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as spring in the south.
Not since Sept. 23, 1991 has a full moon occurred on the same night as the fall equinox, and it won’t happen again until 2029, wrote astronomer Tony Phillips in a NASA announcement.
According to Phillips, the Harvest Moon typically occurs a few days or weeks before or after the fall equinox. This year, though, the full moon occurs just six hours after the equinox, making it what Phillips called a “Super Harvest Moon.”
My friend and fellow photographer Pher Rheiman had brought the event to my attention via Facebook. We bounced ideas around, discussing the possibility of getting a 180° shot that included both the setting sun and rising moon. We also tried to find some possible locations that would afford clear views east and west.
My first thought was the interchange at I-85 and Brockman-McClimmon Road. Not only are there clear views east, but the rising moon could be framed with long-exposure traffic trails from the Interstate. I wasn’t so sure about the view west, though. Pher had mentioned the top of the Richardson Street Parking Garage. While this would have great views west, east would be obscured by the downtown buildings. I countered with the Church Street Bridge, since it’s elevated and would have views across the city skyline west, as well as clear views east.
According to my information, moonrise was supposed to be around 6:45. I left the house in plenty of time to get to the I-85 interchange, and to also check out a couple of other spots nearby along the way. First stop – the Publix parking lot on Pelham Road. It had great views west, but not so good east. Villa Road had similar problems. The downtown airport overlook had clear views in both directions, but there was nothing of interest to frame the shot.
It was getting closer and closer to time, and I had to make a call and stick with it . I abandoned I-85 and headed for the Church Street Bridge. There I found Pher and his wife Jenny already in place with their cameras.
We both shot several series of photos as test panoramas. Here is one view north and one south:
Unfortunately, it didn’t look like the weather was going to cooperate. There were clouds both east and west, so we weren’t going to be able to see anything rise or set. One large thundercloud loomed to the east, ruining any hope of a magnified harvest moon on the horizon.
Pher and I bagged it in, disappointed that we couldn’t get the shot we wanted. I did manage to head out later and get a photo of the full moon through my Celestron telescope, as seen at the top of this post. Maybe in another 20 years I’ll be able to get a full panorama.