Love, Love, Love, October. It’s a collection of natural events and observances that just speak to me. The days are getting a little cooler, as well as shorter, the night sky is getting clearer, and at the end of the month we observe a time when the veil between this world and the next lifts, allowing spirits from the other side to cross over. But equally important to me, October is the beginning of the return of the full moon in all her glory.
As dusk arrives earlier and earlier, it affords the opportunity for the night sky’s biggest player to once again take center stage. Summer moons are good but with sunset not until well after 8pm here in Delaware it doesn’t give a lot of time to truly enjoy them. But there’s something herald-like about a fall moon, as if it all by itself it is solely responsible for the proclamation of the oncoming of the winter seasons. The reason is simple orbital geometry.
Just as the sun makes ever varying paths across our sky between the two solstices, so does our moon. In fact, the moon is locked in a never ending dance of “seasonal balance” with the sun, their two paths in constant opposition. In the Summer time, when the sun is high in the sky the moon’s path is quite low, to the point that it’s so close to the horizon in June that it deepens in color, thus lending to the nick name “Honey Moon”.
But as fall approaches and the sun slowly slides down the celestial sphere the moon’s path rises, making it more and more predominant in the night sky, rising earlier – setting later. While it’s the receding sun that largely declares the arrival of fall during the day, it’s the increasing moon at night that affirms that fact.
And this year, the October moon brings in the fall months with a big show. The moon reaches the point in its orbit called the syzygy (when it’s exactly 180 degrees away from the sun’s disk) tomorrow morning (the 8th) at 6:51am. Yep, the Full Moon Post is a day early this month but there’s a good reason.
Tomorrow also marks the 2nd total lunar eclipse of the year, and 2nd of 4 total eclipses throughout 2014-2015. Normally this would be a big deal, except that the geometries at play are working against us a bit this time. The area in which the eclipse is visible from start to finish, covers most of the Pacific ocean with partial visibility either at moon rise or moon set falling on either side.
What that means to us here on the east coast near Delaware is that the moon will enter the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow at 5:18am and slide fully into it at 6:27am. Maximum totality (when the moon is closest to the center of Earth’s shadow) occurs at 6:55 with the moon setting 6 only minutes later.
Yes, sadly we don’t get to see the back half of the eclipse when the moon begins its journey out of darkness. But because the moon sets at 7:01am and the sun rises at 7:05am we get a chance to witness an event that is rare to any specific location on the Earth – selenelion. A selenelion occurs when the sun and an eclipsed moon (a lot of articles about this eclipse are indicating that this name only applies when the lunar eclipse is a total one, but that’s not the case) appear in the sky at the same time, an occurrence that due to the fact that they are 180 degrees apart on the celestial sphere, actually can’t happen.
But as I explained in my recent review of Seirra Nevada’s Equinox, there’s a huge trick at play here. Because of the way light from the sun and the moon are refracted through Earth’s atmosphere when they’re both close to the horizon, they’ll both appear simultaneously in the sky for a brief period of time before the moon finally slips out of view. This alignment happens somewhere on the Earth during any lunar eclipse, but not always at a location from which it is visible, and infrequently enough at any single given location on Earth to be considered uncommon. Add to that fact that this one occurs during a total eclipse and it certainly would seem to warrant the description of “rare”.
The eclipse also changes another aspect of the moon this month – the name. While normally referred to as the Hunter’s Moon; because of the reddish color it will take on during the total eclipse many people will refer to it as a Blood Moon, although to be honest this moniker is normally used for the October moon in certain aspects of paganism.
So besides this “rare” event what else does October hold? Well as I write this the people of the Jewish faith have already celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. They now are getting ready to start the seven day (sometimes 8 day) festival of Sukkot on October 9th, which is the last Pilgrimage Festival of the year. Due to differences between the Islamic lunar calendar when compared to our current Gregorian solar calendar, the Islamic New Year moves around greatly. But this year it falls on October 24/25.
And of course there’s Samhain, a Gaelic festival and the penultimate festival in the modern pagan Wheel of the Year. It marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Of course, here in the US, it is more commonly referred to as Halloween, and is celebrated with ghoulishly costumed visitors descending on your house in search of treats.
So what’s a good activity for craft beer lovers to do during this particular time of the year? Well I use it to channel my inner “Halloween haunter” and drink any beers I can get my hands on that have a Halloween style theme. Rogue’s Dead Guy is a frequent visitor to my refrigerator this time of year, as well as beers from Wytchwood Brewery and the Day of the Dead line (more on those in a later post); as well as several others.
Just make sure you have plenty left over for after all the kids have returned to their own haunted houses. Light a bonfire away from your house (to encourage spirits to move towards the fire and thus pass by the house), allow the veil to lift around you, and enjoy the calming quiet of the night of the dead. Perhaps you’ll even be contacted by some spirits from your own past.
Time for another beer.