The moon sometimes changes colors from night to night, and from its rising to its setting. Here in Michigan, this happens from time to time during the summer and autumn months, as it does in many countries in the northern hemisphere.

Oftentimes, when we see the moon, it looks gray or a brilliant white. Every so often, though, it can appear to be tinted with red, orange, and dark yellow. When this happens, it is known as a 'harvest moon', an 'orange moon' or a 'blood moon'. The terms 'orange moon' and 'blood moon' are acceptable terminology for this occurrence; however, 'harvest moon' is not.

Some people refer to an orange or blood moon as a 'harvest moon' because they often occur during the fall--when many farmers are harvesting their crops. This leads to dust in the air, which means more particles floating in the atmosphere, which filter out the blue, green, indigo, and violet light waves more often. Logically, this is an acceptable term... except that, historically and scientifically, there is a real harvest moon. The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, at which time, for several days at least, the moon rises around the same time the sun sets. This allows farmers, who are harvesting for the autumn, more light, and thus more time to harvest. But you can read about that here.

The reason we see the moon as being red, orange, or yellow at the rising and setting is because we are viewing the light reflecting off of the moon through more of the atmosphere. The atmosphere itself is not something we can see with the human eye; however, there are tiny particles in the atmosphere such as dust, pollution, and air molecules. By the time the light reaches your eyes, all of the violet, indigo, blue, and green light waves have been filtered out, thus leaving only red, orange, and yellow light waves. So why does the moon appear to be a normal gray or white color when it has risen? Well, that's because the light has one-third of the atmosphere to get through as it does when it's first rising or setting... meaning fewer light waves are filtered out.

Whether or not orange or blood moons are a common occurrence in your area, at least you know that they do happen, and how. And you finally have an answer to one of those questions kids are always asking. Now, if only we knew if God has feet....

A dreamer have I met, and known, and been,
Who watched the night, supine upon the meadow,
And studied of the moon her every shadow,
Traversing countless paces with a squint.

On foggy nights, the moon appeared to fall;
I dreamt she sought an earthling whom she missed,
So that the elements she must enlist
To hide her scorned liaisons from us all.

But one time, dreamily, I saw it clear;
Then one approached who called herself Diane,
And called me then a wonder of a man,
The louder as her footsteps brought her near.
"Now close your eyes," she told me, leaning in.

I did; I woke. This have I met, and been.

April 26, 2008.

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