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September's Full Harvest Moon Sheds Extra Light on the Weekend

Astronauts photograph the full moon.
The Apollo 11 crew snapped this photograph of the full moon from 10,000 miles away. (Image credit: NASA JSC)

Earth's only satellite will appear big and bright on Sunday night and early Monday morning when September's full moon enters the night sky.

September's full moon is also known as the Harvest Moon, because its low-hanging light in the southeastern sky would have traditionally given farmers extra illumination by which to harvest their crops.

This month, the moon will appear at its largest at 5:27 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 12. In the two days leading up to the full moon, the orb might look full to the naked eye, but its brightness is only half of what it will be on the night that the moon is full.

The phase leading up to the full moon is known as the waxing gibbous phase: "waxing" because the moon seems to be growing and "gibbous" for the moon's hump-like shape ("gibbous" comes from a Latin word meaning "hump"). After the full moon and between the last quarter moon, the moon will be in its waning gibbous phase.

Binoculars, a telescope or even the naked eye will provide a view of the moon's craters and surface features. But for the most detailed recent images of the moon's surface, look to the recently released photos by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The photos reveal images of the Apollo moon landing sites. In some spots, decades-old astronaut footprints are still visible.

And if you want to see what the top of the moon looks like, be prepared for a headspin with this mosaic of LRO images of the moon's North Pole.

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.