See the Full Moon Peak: The Corn, Fruit, Barley, and Hungry Ghost Moon

Salt Lake City Moon Rise

Moonrise over Salt Lake City in February 2012. Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

The Next Full Moon is the Corn, Fruit, Barley, and Hungry Ghost Moon; the end of Onam; the start of Pitri Paksha; Modhu Purnima; Binara Pura Pasalosvaka Poya; and the GRAIL, LADEE, and OSIRIS-REx Moon.

The next full Moon will peak after midnight on Wednesday morning, September 2, 2020, appearing “opposite” the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 1:22 a.m. EDT. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Monday evening through Thursday morning.

The Maine Farmer’s Almanac first published Native American names for the full Moons in the 1930s. Over time these names have become widely known and used. According to this almanac, as the full Moon in September and the last full Moon of summer, the Algonquin tribes in what is now the northeastern USA called this the Corn Moon, as this was the time for gathering their main staple crops of corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice.

European names for this full Moon are the Fruit Moon, as a number of fruits ripen as the end of summer approaches, and the Barley Moon, from the harvesting and threshing of the barley.

This full Moon corresponds to the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. The seventh month of the Chinese calendar is the Ghost Month and the fifteenth day of this month (a full Moon day) is called Ghost Day, on which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, come out to visit the living.

For Hindus in Kerala, India, this full Moon marks the end of the 10-day celebration of Onam, which began on August 22, 2020. This full Moon also marks the start of Pitri (or Pitru) Paksha (fortnight of the ancestors) during which Hindus pay homage to their ancestors, especially through food offerings. Pitri Paksha starts with the full Moon in the lunar month of Bhadrapada and ends with the new Moon.

For some Buddhists in Bangladesh and Thailand, this full Moon is Modhu Purnima, the Honey Full Moon or the Honey-offering Festival. This festival is tied to a legend that an elephant and a monkey fed the Buddha when he was in the forest to bring peace between two factions, with the elephant offering fruit and the monkey offering a honeycomb.

In Sri Lanka, this full Moon is the Binara Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day, commemorating the establishment of the Buddhist Bikkhuni Order.

Newer names for this full Moon are the GRAIL Moon and the LADEE Moon. On September 10, 2011, NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft started their voyage toward the Moon on a Delta II launch vehicle. On September 6, 2013, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft started its journey to the Moon on a Minotaur V launch vehicle.

In the last few years another tribe has given a special name to this full Moon. This tribe is geographically distributed but united in a common cause. This is the OSIRIS-REx Moon, in honor of NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft launched four years ago on Thursday, September 8, 2016. OSIRIS-REx is currently at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and will bring back samples for study in the laboratories of Earth, not just to answer questions we have today but to answer the questions of future generations of researchers, questions we have not thought of yet using laboratory instruments we have not invented yet. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completed its second sample collection rehearsal on August 11, 2020, approaching about 131 feet (40 meters) above Bennu’s surface. In October (currently scheduled for October 20, 2020) OSIRIS-REx will contact the surface for several seconds and collect its samples. OSIRIS-REx will deliver these samples of Bennu back to Earth in September 2023.

In most lunisolar calendars the months change with the new Moon and full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full Moon is in the middle of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar and Elul, the twelfth month in the Hebrew calendar. Elul is a time of preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Customs include granting and asking others for forgiveness as well as beginning or ending all letters with the wish that the recipient will have a good year. This full Moon is near the middle of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year, one of the four sacred months during which warfare is forbidden.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon. And you might want to gather your fruits, vegetables, and other staples; avoid war; remember your ancestors; ask for forgiveness; and let go of grudges. Here’s wishing you have a good year!

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