The Full Hunter’s Moon – Friday, October 18, 2013

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There’s something about the full moon in October that is especially mystical.

Many people, including myself, believe that the full moon is responsible for erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights at professional hockey games, dog bites, insomnia and all manner of strange events. While men of science may scoff at this belief, most of us have a full moon story or two.

Native Americans called this moon the Hunter’s Moon, which isn’t spooky at all.  It was also called the Blood Moon, which is much more satisfying.

The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. The Hunter’s Moon historically served as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.

Hunter's Moon

October’s full moon has a bonus in store for  this year.

A penumbral lunar eclipse — so called because only the incomplete outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, or penumbra, falls across the moon — is expected to reach its deepest point at 7:50 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 18.

Unlike total eclipses, in which Earth’s umbra — the central region of its shadow — darkens the moon entirely, a penumbral lunar eclipse involves only a slight dimming. Skywatchers should expect to see a much more subtle sight — with a shadow on the lower half of the full moon — like the eclipse pictured below.

PHILIPPINES LUNAR ECLIPSE

The REAL Pink Full Moon …

pink moon

Last month I mistakenly posted that the March full moon was the pink one. I was wrong. 😦

Here is a great article from the Huffington Post about tomorrow night’s “Planetary Event!!”

By: Joe Rao

Published: 04/22/2013 06:32 PM EDT on SPACE.com

This month’s full moon, which falls on Thursday (April 25), always reminds me of one of the first times I viewed the April full moon

When I was very young boy living in New York, there was a popular television weathercaster by the name of Carol Reed. While not a meteorologist, she had an upbeat personality and always finished her reports with what became her personal catch phrase: “And have a happy!”

One evening, Carol commented that it would be clear for everyone to get a good view of that night’s “pink” full moon. When it got dark, my mother accompanied me outside expecting to see a salmon-colored moon, but all we saw was a full moon that looked the way it always did: yellowish-white with not a hint of pink.

While I don’t recall the year of this episode, I can state most definitely that it took place in the month of April, since many years later I learned that traditionally the full moon of April is called the “pink moon,” a reference made to the grass pink or wild ground phlox which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring season. [How 2013’s Full Moons Got Their Peculiar Names]

So on Thursday night, when you look skyward at this year’s version of the “pink” April full moon, remember not to take the term literally!

A bit of an eclipse

While this month’s full moon may not look pink, if you live in Europe, Africa or much of Asia, you will notice something a bit different about it, because it will take place on the night of a lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately, in North America, none of this eclipse will be visible, since the actual instant of full moon occurs on Thursday afternoon (April 25), when the moon is below the horizon.

Beginning at 2:04 p.m. EDT (1804 GMT), the moon begins to meet the Earth’s shadow; a little over two hours later it arrives under the middle of that shadow. By then the moon will have just risen and will be visible low to the east-southeast horizon as seen from Ireland, and will be setting over south-central Japan in the morning hours of Friday, April 26.

Feeble at best

If we were to rank a total eclipse of the moon as a first-rate event, then what is scheduled to be seen on Thursday for those living in the Eastern Hemisphere would almost certainly fall into the third- or even fourth-rate category; in fact it might add new meaning to the term “underwhelming.”

During the first 110-minutes of the eclipse, the moon’s northern hemisphere pushes ever-so-gradually into the Earth’s partial shadow, called the penumbra. The outer two-thirds of this are too subtle to detect; but then perhaps by 3:30 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT) you may realize you are beginning to detect the ever-so-slight gradient of a soft grey darkening around the top of the moon.

At 3:54 p.m. EDT (1954 GMT), the moon’s northern limb finally makes contact with a much more abrupt shadow, the blackish-brown umbra. This chord of shadow on the moon grows and retreats over a span of less than half an hour; yet at its deepest at 4:07 p.m. EDT (2007 GMT), the partial eclipse will reach its peak at a puny 1.48 percent as the moon’s northern (upper) limb literally grazes the umbral shadow and remains in contact with it until 4:21 p.m. EDT (2021 GMT).

This dark shadow’s coverage can be described as feeble at best. To the unaided eye, even to those with acute visual skills, it will hardly cause a perceptible dent on the lunar disk. However, anyone who glances up at the moon around that time will likely notice that the uppermost part of the disk of the moon will appear smudged or tarnished. This effect will probably fade away by around 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), with the moon appearing as its normal self. Officially, though, the moon will not completely free itself from the outer penumbral shadow until 6:11 p.m. EDT (2211 GMT).

In spite of the fact that this isn’t much of an eclipse, I suspect that more than a few skywatchers across the big pond will still take time out to watch it. That is, after all what a true amateur astronomer is: patient, undemanding, and willing to accept even the smallest crumbs from the star tables.

Oh — and have a happy!

The Beaver Moon

November 28 marks the last full moon before the formal arrival of winter.  It is known in folklore as the Beaver Moon.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the Beaver Moon marked the time for setting beaver traps so there would be a sufficient supply of fur for the upcoming winter months. The beavers themselves are preparing for winter around this time of year. This full moon has also been called the frosty moon.

The November 2012 full moon will be the smallest of the year. It will also be accompanied by a subtle penumbra eclipse, during which the moon passes through the light penumbral shadow surrounding the umbra. The umbra is the darkest shadow of the moon cast by the Earth.

A penumbral lunar eclipse is not as obvious as an umbral eclipse of the moon because the moon does not pass directly across the Earth’s shadow. Although the penumbral eclipse will last for over four and one-half hours, viewers will only be likely to notice a slight shading on the north side of the moon for up to an hour or so, centered at the time of greatest eclipse (14:33 UTC).

The farther west and north you live in North America, the better your chances of catching the subtle shadow on the moon before dawn on November 28. The farther east or north you are in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere, the better your chances of seeing the penumbral eclipse after nightfall on November 28. It will take until at least 70% of the moon’s diameter is immersed within the Earth’s penumbral shadow before the eclipse even becomes noticeable. At the time of greatest eclipse on November 28, the penumbral shadow will cover nearly 92% of the moon’s diameter.

No penumbral eclipse will be visible for the east coast of the United States, central and South America, and western parts of the African continent.