Moon When Deer Paw the Ground

white-tailed deer – USDA photo by Scott Bauer

The media made a big deal yesterday a boy the coincidence of a Harvest Full Moon occurring on a Friday the 13th. But the Moon didn’t reach fullness in Paradelle until after midnight, so that wasn’t;t exactly true for me. And anyway, the 13 part is just a coincidence of calendars and nothing celestial.

The name of this month’s Full Moon as the Moon When Deer Paw the Ground comes to us from the Omaha people.  The Omaha people are a federally recognized Midwestern Native American tribe who reside on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska and western Iowa, United States. The Omaha people migrated to the upper Missouri area and the Plains by the late 17th century from earlier locations in the Ohio River Valley.

Why do deer paw the ground at this time? This is one of those nature signs that Native Americans (and today deer hunters) would notice. It concerns scrapes which is a sign that is important in tracking deer during the rut. Scrapes are made when bucks paw the ground at the foot of a tree, creating a bare patch of earth on the ground, and then urinating on it to leave a sign of their presence. In this way, a buck can attract does during the rut. The buck urinates down his rear legs and onto his tarsal glands, which create a stronger and more pungent odor.

The rut (from the Latin rugire, meaning “to roar”) is the mating season of certain mammals, including deer, sheep, goats, and bison. This is when males have an increase in testosterone, increased aggression and interest in females. In most species, males mark themselves or their habitat with mud, secretions from glands or their urine.

Some of the many names given to this September Full Moon include: Nut Moon, Mulberry Moon, Singing Moon, Barley Moon, Elk Call Moon, Fruit Moon, Corn Moon, Wine Moon, Gypsy Moon, Moon of Leaves Turning Color, Moon of Spiderwebs on the Ground, Big Feast Moon, Haligmonath (Holy Month), and  Witumanoth (Wood Month).

September sometimes is the month of the Harvest Moon but in some years that is in October. That is because that name is given to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.  The equinox is on September 23 this year and the October Full Moon is on the 13th, so today’s Full Moon is the Harvest Moon for 2019.

For any readers in the Southern Hemisphere, this September Full Moon might be called by our Northern spring names, such as Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Chaste Moon, or Sap Moon.

deer scrape from a game camera by Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.

Orion Rising

A beautiful view of Orion in a photo taken by Rogelio Bernal Andreo showing the surrounding nebulas of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. Also captured is the red supergiant Betelgeuse (top left) and the famous belt of Orion composed of the OB stars Altitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. To the bottom right can be found the star Rigel.  via Wikimedia

The Full Moon of October is often called the Hunter’s Moon but Orion the Hunter is not limited to hunting in that month.

Orion is the first constellation I learned to spot in the night sky. It is very distinctive because of the short, straight row of three medium-bright stars at its mid-section that we call “Orion’s Belt.”

This constellation appears in the predawn sky in late July or early August. Now, in late August and early September, Orion the Hunter rises in the early hours of the morning (which many of us think of as night) and is up int the sky an hour before or at dawn.

But the shift continues and it will soon enough rise by midnight, then at my bedtime and by the time we reach the end of the year, Orion will be rising in the early evening. This shift from predawn to the evening sky is just like the westward shift of all the stars.  The shift is caused by Earth’s orbit around the sun which causes all the stars to rise approximately four minutes earlier each day.

Showing the stars and shape of Orion and his belt

August Moon When All Things Ripen

rosy moon of summerThis morning (August 15 8:31 A.M.  here), the Moon went full. It was so close to being full earlier in the week that it made it more difficult to see any of the Perseid meteor showers.

The most common name for this August Full Moon is the Sturgeon Moon. But I suspect that for the vast majority of Americans the sturgeon or even fishing is not a big part of their life this month. The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month.

Because I pay attention to threatened and endangered species, I want to note that all five U.S. Atlantic sturgeon distinct population segments are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These populations are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, and habitat impediments such as dams and other barriers and vessel strikes.

Sturgeon – photo

In many cultures, the Full Moon names were actually applied to the entire month that followed. The Farmer’s Almanac has a list of Full Moon names with brief descriptions.

In Colonial America, the Europeans may have called this the Dog’s Day Moon.

Among the American Indian tribes, there were many variations in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were used among the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. In the book This Day in North American Indian History the author looks at events, including Full Moon names, going back to the construction of Mayan temples in A.D. 715 to modern political activism and governmental legislation. It has 50+ native peoples.

I chose the Dakotah Sioux name Moon When All Things Ripen. The Cherokee called this the Fruit Moon.

The Klamath people are a Native American tribe of the Plateau culture area in Southern Oregon and Northern California, centered around the area around the Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath, Williamson, and Sprague rivers. They subsisted primarily on fish and gathered roots, berries, and seeds.

Different tribes started the year at different times. For example, the Juaneno people started the year with the winter solstice.  The Klamath people started the year with today’s Full Moon. They marked the months/moons on their fingers, so this moon was marked on the thumb and was called the Moon When Berries Dried.

This is the Celtic Dispute Moon, and it is the Neo-Pagan Lightning Moon.

If you’re feeling the heat and humidity where you are today, here’s a cooling thought: In the Southern Hemisphere, the August Full Moon is often called the Snow Moon. That’s a name we use in the North in January or February.

Black Moon Today

newish moon
There’s nothing to photograph for the New Moon, so photos often show the thinnest slice of the New Moon coming out of its Black Moon phase.

The New Moon, also known as a Black Moon, travels across the sky with the Sun today in the Western Hemisphere. It happens here on July 31 and on August 1 in other time zones.

For folks in Paradelle, this is the second of two July 2019 New Moons. Far east of here, it is the first of two for August.

Because you can’t see a Black Moon, you shouldn’t forget that it is there. It still has gravitational influence combined with the Sun that affects our mostly-water planet. If you live on a coastline or follow the tides, it matters more than to most of us.

That influence will be even greater now because this is a supermoon – a New Moon happening in close conjunction with the lunar perigee when our satellite is at its closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Feel the pull?

new or black moon

50 Years of Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

This month had lots of tributes to the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon. It also saw the re-emergence of some of the Moon landing conspiracies that the whole thing was faked –  an elaborate hoax.

It would have been one helluva hoax. It would have involved thousands of people who have miraculous all stuck to their non-disclosure agreements and kept the secret. That alone is enough reason for me to believe it could never have been a hoax.

Of course, there were good reasons to believe that the pressure was on for NASA to get a man on the Moon.  President Kennedy on May 25,1961 had said to Congress

” I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

The decade was running out in 1969, so if NASA wanted to stay with that target it had to get a man on the Moon that year. Some people apparent;y thought we weren’t ready to do it for real, so we would have to fake it. There was also the perceived “space race” we were in with Russia to get there first.

One article that caught my attention this past week was titled “How Stanley Kubrick Staged the Moon Landing.” Despite that title, the article is more about debunking the conspiracy theorists who believed that the Moon landing was a hoax and other theories about that July 20, 1969 event at 3:17 P.M. E.S.T. that was so important in our history

Kubrick had directed 2001: A Space Odyssey the year before. That film was based on Arthur C. Clarke’s writing and the script, book, and film did predict manmade satellites, GPS, maybe even smartphones and tablets, along with a space station.

Apollo 11 training
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in NASA’s training mockup of the Moon and lander module. Were the films of the missions made using sets like these?

Actually, the stories of a space hoax predate the Moon landing. There were doubters going back to the first manned launches.

But the big hoax has always been the actual Moon landing. The Knight newspaper company in July 1970 found that 30 percent of Americans believed the Moon landing had been faked. Six years later, a Gallup poll found that 28 percent of Americans believed that the Moon landing had been staged by the U.S. government, and that was pretty consistent throughout the 1970s.

Wikipedia has an article on the Moon landing conspiracy theories, but many of them had their start with Bill Kaysing who wrote We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle . This book started a “the Moon landing  is a hoax” industry in 1970s.

Kaysing got attention because he was the head of the technical presentations unit at the Rocketdyne Propulsion Field Laboratory from 1956 to 1963. when the major planning for the engine and components of the Apollo project was being done. Though Kaysing later admitted that he knew nothing about rockets, he did hold security clearances with the U.S. Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission for his work and that sounded pretty official to many people.  These clearances are fairly common for anyone who works on government and DoD or military contracts.

Kaysing was a technical writer for Rocketdyne, but he was convinced after he left the company that the U.S. was just not capable with our current technology to put a man on the Moon.

There have been 6 successful Apollo manned missions to the Moon, and a dozen men have walked the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. But it is that first lunar mission that is the focus of the conspiracy theories.

Kaysing’s 1976 self-published book explained his theories. He did believe that he was a whistle-blower letting the public know that there had been a cover-up.

A few of the inconsistencies he stated were easily debunked. He claimed that the American flag the astronauts planted on the moon should have been hanging down since there is no air or wind on the Moon. NASA had thought of that early on and not wanting that floppy effect had put a cross beam on the pole to hold the flag in a windy attitude. When Buzz Aldrin was twisting the pole into the surface it caused the flag to briefly move as if it was flapping in wind.

Another part of the hoax “evidence” is the multiple directions of shadows in photos and on film. Since the only source of light would be the Sun, this was said to prove that multiple movie lights had been used on a set. Actually, there were multiple sources of light during the lunar landings from the Sun, reflected from the Earth and from the lander module and from the astronauts’ space suits and helmets.

Aha, the lunar photos show no stars in the pictures! Where did they go? The moonwalks were made during the lunar morning and just like here on Earth, you don’t see stars when the Sun is out. We don’t even see them at night if we are in a brightly lit area that washes out the sky, such as at a stadium.

Kaysing even questioned how Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the Moon were filmed if he was the only one there.  Quite simply, a camera had been mounted to the side of the lunar module.

Kaysing didn’t doubt that a rocket blasted off in July of 1969, but claimed that the astronauts had been taken off before takeoff. They were then taken to Nevada which is where the studio set was to fake the landing photography.

The Hollywood film Capricorn One was based on the hoax theories and was about a faked mission to Mars. Some scenes from the faked Mars landing scenes have turned up in Moon landing hoax conspiracy documentaries, such as the TV show Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon and the film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon.

America was ripe for conspiracies with the Watergate scandal and Vietnam War revelations in the news showing us that the government was doing a lot of things secretly and hiding the truth from the public.

Which brings me back to Stanley Kubrick. If you had to pick a director to shoot believable Moon landing footage, Kubrick would be a good choice. Kubrick’s astronauts in his 2001 film landing on the Moon look a lot better than the actual lunar landing footage. It would have been easy for him to stage scenes that didn’t have to look as good. From what I have read about Kubrick’s directing style, it would have been a lot harder to get him to shoot the landing without many takes and certainly impossible to get him to do a live shoot. Kubrick shot 2001 without computer graphics, so he would have to use models and actual sets and props such as the space station and a Moon surface with rocks and lunar dust. He had done the research.

I do believe that on July 20, 1969, the lunar module Eagle landed on the surface of the Moon, carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin.  I believe that Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon and Aldrin was the second human on the Moon while Michael Collins orbited above. They stayed on the Moon for 21 hours and 36 minutes.

Here is some footage that was not seen back in 1969.  I guess Kubrick had outtakes?


When Are Those Aliens Going To Visit Earth?

alien encounter

There are many theories that try to explain why we haven’t made contact with aliens. Theorists range from those who believe it is because there are no other intelligent beings anywhere in the universe, to those who believe that they have made contact already.

In just the observable universe, there are approximately 10 billion galaxies, and each has around 100 billion stars that can act like our own Sun. Astronomer Frank Drake came up with the Drake Equation which estimates that there should be around 20 alien civilizations close enough to Earth to have been detected.

I listened to Stephen Hawking’s book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, this past week. He believed that there was certainly life elsewhere in the universe, but whether or not it was intelligent depends on your definition of intelligent. He also believed that if intelligent (or more-intelligent-than-us) beings came to Earth, the results might be terrible for us.

He points to our own history of similar encounters here on our planet, such as Columbus opening the New World to aliens from the Old World.

The search for extra-terrestrial life-ou-there fascinates us.  We have written many stories and made many films about the possibilities. Very serious science is done with lots of money being spent on equipment that listens and sends signals into the depths of the universe. But, so far, deep space has not answered.

Some people have called Hawking’s way of thinking about this the Dark Forest Theory. I still vividly recall an old Twilight Zone episode titled “To Serve Man”  that I saw as a kid that I suppose introduced this darker view of aliens to me.

The episode’s opening narration (by creator Rod Serling) is: “Respectfully submitted for your perusal – a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we’re going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”

In the episode, the Kanamit comes to Earth in peace and has a book that contains advanced information meant “to serve man.” It needs to be translated into English and our codebreakers are working on it. He wants people of Earth to journey to his planet, which is described as a paradise. He offers world leaders access to his planet’s advanced technology. We can have an atomic electrical generator that can provide very cheap energy, fertilizers to end famine, and a force field that could be used to prevent international warfare.

One man from Earth is selected to go on their spaceship, and just as he is leaving, we have cracked enough of the Kanamit language to realize that “to serve man” is not a book of technology wonders but it is a cookbook.

This “dark” view of alien contact is not the only view.

The Fermi Paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, it was an early theory to ask “If there are billions of stars in billions of galaxies, then why haven’t we seen aliens?’ People – scientists and ordinary folks – have said that it is reasonable to believe that there is alien life on other planets but they don’t have the technology to reach us yet.

Maybe they simply don’t want to visit us. They might view us as crude and don’t need what resources our planet offers.

Perhaps they visited Earth long ago, before human life, and have not returned.


Earth is a miracle planet that lies on the “Goldilocks Zone” of just the right conditions based on our distance from the Sun. To have life at all similar to life on Earth (which includes but is not limited to human life) you need the right conditions and then life forms. Maybe there are other planets that are not more advanced but less advanced. They are the Earth of 500,000 years ago.

The sweet spot that Earth hits is how plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide and organisms do the opposite. Earth may be the only place in our galaxy where that is true.

We have been listening to about one percent of our galaxy and sending out signals for about 100 years. In a universe estimated to be nearly 14 billion years old, that extends 92 billion light years in diameter, it is reasonable to say that we are being much too impatient.

alien attack

That Dark Forest Theory suggests that there is alien life out there, but it is hostile. That is because all living creatures innately have the drive to survive and reproduce. That is true of humans, birds, bacteria and viruses and so it should be true of aliens.

There is already been much discussion of Earthlings going to other planets (albeit ones without aliens, such as Mars)  because our Earth resources are limited. What if the next habitable planet we find outside our solar system has rich resources and is inhabited by some form of intelligent life? What if their intelligence and technology are less advanced than ours when we make contact? How will we, as the aliens, treat them?

Perhaps, other civilizations are keeping quiet and not making contact as a way to survive.

Astronomer Dominik Riechers at Cornell University believes the reason we have not made contact with life in outer space is that they are hiding from hostile aliens – like us.

Should we make contact if we don’t know what’s out there?

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