October’s ‘towel moon’ is a special spectacle

Posted by Brian Rubenstein on March 11, 2011 · Updated 10:49 a.m.

Posted by Sean Davis on March 10, 2011 · Updated 10:45 a.m.

October’s hunter’s moon – a full moon coinciding with Autumn, though not always – is one of the most exciting astronomical events of the year.

Every year, the moon is neither too full nor too full at the same time to allow astronomers to see and study rare and important lunar phenomena with the naked eye or even binoculars. See the special lunar animations from BBC to give you the “full moon wow factor.”

After the Eclipse of 25 September on the Atlantic will give moon lovers the chance to see October’s “towel moon”, as the scientists nicknamed it.

According to astronomer Carl Linnaeus, the first “towel moon” of the year appears about once per month. Called October’s balloon moon, or such a word in German, due to its resemblance to a ball, the moon appears to be often not quite full. For most of the world, this means a greater amount of sunlight is absorbed. Larger parts of the moon also appear darker than normal, for the same reason.

According to Anthony Cook, from the Astronomical Society of Nevada, “In the northern hemisphere, a full moon which coincides with the times of sunset and sunrise is known as a Hunter’s Moon, and in the southern hemisphere, a new moon or an Umbral Moon, is known by the Spanish as Le Roce (when the fruit is ripe).”

Each of these winter months, there are several peaks in these seasonal brightness variations. Most years, Earth aligns the moon with the sun in a manner that produces a nearly full moon, but this month, it will coincide with a good amount of blood moon.

For those who observe October’s full moon or any of the other four month full moons, the night sky is likely to look very familiar and very different from the other months. For example, there are few full moons on the summer solstice, and perhaps no high tide to go along with them.

Hunters in Europe had some very interesting names for November’s full moon, which is sometimes referred to as the “wet moon”. It was named because when it rose in the first half of the night, it was almost a certain sign of winter to come as it was when food rations for hunters in Europe were reduced. In Ireland, the Hunters Moon was called Corrib.

For the next couple of years we can expect to see a lot of deer on and around October’s full moon. Don’t leave dinner plates out, folks. For more information on October’s hunter’s moon, visit the Astronomical Society of Nevada on Facebook.

J. Rubenstein is an emeritus professor of astronomy from Saint Mary’s College of California. Since 1972, he has written papers on astronomy and written numerous books about astronomy and medicine.

Sean Davis is an astronomy instructor from the University of Delaware, where he writes the astronomy column for the Daily Collegian. His most recent book is “American First: Ostrich Thinking in Space.”

J. Rubenstein is an emeritus professor of astronomy from Saint Mary’s College of California. Since 1972, he has written papers on astronomy and written numerous books about astronomy and medicine.

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