The year 2023 has seen an abundance of astronomical events visible to Alabama folks. Another is this Friday morning, September 29. It is the annual Harvest Moon, meaning the full moon closest to the advent of fall.

The full moon, expected to be unusually bright, will rise and be visible from late Thursday night to early Friday morning, maxing about 4:57 a.m. central time Friday.

Weather forecasts for Thursday night and Friday morning vary across Alabama, so clouds may impede viewing in certain parts of the state.

Astronomers say that three planets may be visible during the lunar event — large planets Jupiter and Saturn and small Mercury.

Friday's Harvest Moon will mark the fourth "supermoon" of the year, defined as a full moon occurring close to the perigee, the closest the moon comes to Earth in its lunar orbit. There was a supermoon in July, two in August and the one you can see this Friday morning. Those supermoons have been an unusually large number of lunar events in one year, and this Friday is the final supermoon of the year.        

A song about harvest moons was popular with your great-grandparents. From 1908 on, Americans would sing:

Shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky.
I ain't had no lovin' since January, February, June or July.
Snow time ain't no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So shine on, shine on harvest moon -- for me 'n' my gal.

Shine on Harvest Moon, written by Ruth Etting, was made popular and hit the national charts by singer Kate Smith, who was most famous for "God Bless America."

By reminding you of this song, I expect that hundreds of Alabama folks will be singing or humming the song while viewing the moon early Friday morning. I will, with morning coffee.

Jim Zeigler is former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. He took coursework in astronomy at the University of Alabama in Galilee Hall.

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