• The Next Full Moon is the Hunter’s Moon

    … but for me and many others on the West Coast, we’ll know of this one as the “Sandy Moon” or the “Hurricane Moon.” Hopefully for friends in New York City it won’t be the “Flood Moon.” This month, the full moon is already affecting our civilization, as it is leading to forecasts of very high tides coincident with the landfall of Hurricane Sandy. This could lead to flooding of lower Manhattan and the NYC subway system, and widespread damage across the mid-Atlantic.

    If you’re hunkered down at home and want solid analysis of what to expect, I highly recommend Jeff Masters’s blog. When people ask me what to expect, I usually parrot whatever I’ve read there most recently. The Weather Underground site also has a great map you can use to track the hurricane track, model forecasts of its track and of the storm surge, radar and satellite, evacuation routes, and lots more. Get that here. You can also check out the Google Crisis site that has storm maps with shelter locations and (again) lots more.

    I also strongly urge you to stay indoors and off the roads, except in absolute emergencies. The big threat to life with this storm isn’t from the rain and wind (although trees will come down) but from flooding. So even if things look “OK” when you leave, flash floods could trap you at any moment. Instead, stay home and pull out a board game… or better yet open up your laptop and read this month’s astronomical forecast from Gordon Johnston. 🙂

    The next full Moon is on Monday afternoon, October 29, 2012 (3:49 pm EDT). The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Sunday morning through Wednesday morning.

    This is the Hunter’s Moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, with the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the harvesters have reaped the fields, hunters can easily see the animals that have come out to glean (and the foxes that have come out to prey on them). According to Wikipedia, the Hunter’s Moon was a traditional feast day in parts of Western Europe, called simply the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, although the celebration had largely died out by the 1700s. The Hunter’s Moon is the full Moon after the Harvest Moon, and is usually in October but sometimes falls in November.

    Other names for the mid-Fall Moon (the second full Moon of the season) are the Beaver Moon, the Frost Moon, or the Snow Moon. Mid-Fall is time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon come from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. This is also called the Frosty Moon, as frosts begin to occur. The mid-Fall or second full Moon of Autumn usually occurs in November, so these names are sometimes associated with the full Moon in November, which this year occurs on November 28, 2012.

    This is also Sharad Purnima or Kojaagari Purnima, a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin. The rainy season is over and the brightness of the full moon brings special joy. This is a traditional celebration of the moon and is also called the Kaumudi celebration, Kaumudi meaning moonlight. For more information on the Hindu traditions associated with this full Moon see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharad_Purnima

    As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

    As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon in December:

    For the northern hemisphere, as evening twilight ends in late October 2012 (when I send out this note), the bright stars overhead are Vega in the constellation Lyra (the Lyre) and Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan). Lyra is the 5th brightest star we see from Earth while Deneb is the 19th brightest star (not counting the Sun). Mars is only about 10 degrees above the horizon in the southwest, about 5 degrees above the “rival of Mars” (one of the translations of the star name Antares). Antares is the
    15th brightest star in the sky. Jupiter rises about 2 hours after sunset, and if you have a telescope or good binoculars, this is a good time to look at Jupiter and its four bright moons, as the evenings are not quite so cold yet, and Jupiter is getting closer to the Earth as it approaches Opposition (which occurs in early December). Venus remains the morning star, rising about 3 hours before the Sun.

    For much of the U.S. at least, since 2007 when Congress changed the end of Daylight Savings from the last weekend in October to the first weekend in November, the latest sunrises of the year occur in late October and early November. For the Washington, DC area, the Sun rises at 7:27 am EST from December 30, 2012 to January 10, 2013, while sunrise is later than 7:27 am EDT from Thursday morning, October 25 through Saturday morning November 3, 2012, when the Sun rises at 7:38 am EDT. If it seems unusually difficult to wake up in the morning, these unusually dark mornings provide a plausible (and perhaps even valid) excuse.

    On Thursday, November 1, 2012, look later in the evening to see the bright planet Jupiter about 2 degrees from the waning gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, Jupiter rise and moonrise are around 8 pm EDT, about 2 hours after sunset. Jupiter and the Moon are at their highest in the sky between 3 and 3:30 am on Friday morning, and if the sky is clear should be spectacular, as they will be in a region of the that has the brightest stars, including Sirius (the brightest star), Capella (6th), Rigel (7th), Procyon (8th), and Betelgeuse (10th). Not all bright star lists agree. What appears to be the 3rd brightest star in the sky is actually a double star, so some lists count this as one star (as it appears to the naked eye) while others count it as two dimmer stars (as they appear through a telescope).

    Sunday, November 4, 2012, is the end of daylight savings time for most of the U.S. For the Washington, DC area, sunrise shifts an hour to 6:39 am, while sunset is at 5:04 pm. If you commute to work by bicycle (as I do), make sure your lights are working!

    Late Sunday night and early Monday morning, November 5, 2012, the chance of seeing a meteor is increased slightly by the peak of the South Taurid meteor shower. The Taurids generally only produce about 7 meteors per hour.

    The waning Moon reaches its third quarter on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    About an hour before dawn on Sunday, November 11, 2012, look to the east-southeast where the waning crescent Moon will appear near Venus and the bright star Spica. Venus will be about 6 degrees to the left of the Moon, while Spic will be about 7 degrees below Venus and the Moon.

    A week after the South Taurids peak is the peak of the North Taurids. Late Sunday evening and early Monday morning, November 12, 2012, the chance of seeing a meteor is increased slightly. Both the South and North Taurids generally only produce about 7 meteors per hour.

    The new Moon is on Tuesday, November 13, 2012. There will be a total eclipse of the Sun, mostly visible in the southern Pacific ocean (the only land area from which the total eclipse can be seen is in northern Australia, where it will be early morning).

    On Saturday morning, November 17, 2012, consider getting up early to see the Leonid meteor shower. The Leonids get their name because they appear to radiate out from the Constellation Leo. The Leonids are tiny grains of dust from the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle that it the atmosphere at such a high velocity (in the case of the Leonids about 71 km or 44 miles per second) that the air cannot get out of the way and is compressed until it glows white hot, creating a streak in the sky. The Leonids occasionally put on a spectacular show, but this year they are expected to only produce about 15 meteors per hour. The best time to see these meteors is after midnight but before the sky starts to lighten with dawn (before 5:52 am in the Washington, DC area). If you are up about 90 minutes to an hour before dawn, look also to the east-southeast for Venus. The bright star Spica will be about 4 degrees to the lower right of Venus, and Saturn will be below and to the left.

    The first quarter Moon is on Tuesday, November 20. 2012.

    On Monday, November 26, 2012, and again on Tuesday, November 27, 2012, in the morning before dawn, look for Venus in the east-southeast. On Monday morning Saturn will appear about a degree to the left and slightly below Venus, while on Tuesday Saturn will be even closer, appearing to the upper left of Venus.

    The full Moon after next will be on Wednesday, November 28, 2012.