The Twitch of the Socks

Labor Day has come and gone, but the celestial clock still reads summer. While our days are still longer than our nights, we have lost two hours 45 minutes of sunlight over the past three months. After this week, the hours of darkness each day will trump those of light.

In the late hours Wednesday, as the earth’s equator faces the sun head-on, all across the Bay region, a strange phenomenon takes place. It begins in dust-coated drawers throughout Eastport but then spreads quickly to communities near and far. Pulled as if into life by the gravitational tug of the sun, balled pairs of socks quiver at first, then twist and pivot before balancing on end. 

So comes the autumnal equinox, the end of summer and the beginning of fall, when day is split equally between light and dark across the globe. Hereafter, those long-neglected socks will reunite with feet losing their tan apace with the quickening loss of daylight.

Wednesday also marks the Harvest Moon. All full moons rise with the setting sun and set with daybreak. But around this time each year, the nighttime moon travels a shallow arch low through the south. Appearing in contrast to objects along the horizon, fall’s full moons seem larger than other others. While only an optical illusion, another factor comes into play with the autumn moon’s shallow path along the ecliptic.

In the days around full phase, the moon typically rises some 50 minutes later each night. But for the nights around the Harvest Moon — and October’s Hunter’s Moon — the moon rises just 25 or 30 minutes later from night to night. This resulting string of bright, moonlit nights coincides with the peak of harvest throughout the Northern Hemisphere, extending the hours in which farmers can work their fields.