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I will be traveling over the weekend and away from my computer, so I’m giving an early post about three upcoming celestial observations

moon.

Saturday, December 22, 2018 is our final full moon of the year and it occurs less than a day after the Winter solstice. That is close enough that to most people it will look like a Full Moon on the solstice.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice will be the longest winter night, but a big bright Moon will be a celestial nightlight for many of us. This is the third closest and largest of this year’s 13 full moons.

I would guess to the ancients who were attentive to celestial occurrences, they might have seen deeper meanings in these three simultaneous events. A December solstice and Full Moon happening less than a day apart last happened in 2010. The next time will be 2029. 

I missed any good view of the Geminid meteor showers last week due to cloud and rain. This week the annual Ursid meteor shower occurs and they typically peak around the December solstice. They will still be strong on the 22nd and continue until about the 28th.

The Ursids are not as impressive as the Geminids, although if you have never seen a meteor shower of “falling stars” or “fireballs” (get those kids outside!) seeing even a few is pretty impressive. I would recommend that you go out and look to the Big and Little Dippers. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor give their names to the meteor shower and are easy to find late at night high in the north-northeast. The big glare of the first December solstice full moon since 2010 will unfortunately being a celestial nightlight that will wash out some of the darkness.

You never see the Moon rotate as in the video above where it spins in full rotation. This footage is from NASA who explains that we never see this because our Moon is tidally locked in its orbit to the Earth, and so always shows us only one side.

It takes some digital technology to combine many HD images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to make this virtual Moon rotation video. In this time-lapse video, we start with the standard Earth view of the Moon, then an entire lunar month is condensed into 24 seconds.

Early full moons in December were called the Moon Before Yule by the European colonists who also knew it as the Oak Moon (Medieval English), Frost Moon, Freezing Moon, and Snow Moon.

Native Americans had many names for this Full Moon including Long Night Moon, Cold Moon, Small Spirits Moon, When the Wolves Run Together (Cheyenne) Moon of Respect (Hopi) and Moon of Popping Trees.

 

Tonight, our Moon will be full and that often obscures some stars or planets in its glare.  But the star charts tell me that Aldebaran, a bright star that forms part of the “face” of Taurus the Bull, and the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus’ “shoulder” should still be visible. I am away from Paradelle and near a dark ocean, so viewing will be different from my home turf.

The November Full Moon is often called the Beaver Moon or Frosty Moon. Back in Paradelle, frosty would be the right word to describe the weather conditions tonight.  I’m not in the Southern Hemisphere, but I am close today, so it feels more like spring than late autumn. In either location, this Full Moon shines in front of Taurus the Bull for this third and final full moon of our Northern Hemisphere autumn (or the Southern Hemisphere spring).

Sassafras albidum growing in Paradelle

We might also use one of the American Indian names for this Full Moon. I believe it is the Choctaw that call this the Sassafras Moon. Sassafras is a tree commonly found throughout the eastern United States that grows up to about 60 feet in height. The tree is also sometimes called cinnamon wood.

I’m sure that the native Americans observed deer and porcupines eating the leaves and twigs. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds, including bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, gray catbirds, pileated and downy woodpeckers. Sassafras root and bark was used in cooking and also herbal remedies. The leaves were used for tea.

Sassafras was also a component is commercial sodas, especially root beer – hence the root name. The key word is was. Sassafras has fallen out of favor because the root bark contains safrole, a volatile oil that the FDA banned as a potential carcinogen in the 1960s. With the safrole removed, it can be legally sold as a topical skin wash or as “aromatic potpourri.”

Whether tonight will be wintry frosty cold or spring like warm, this season we are in runs from the September equinox to the December solstice.

In December, the full moon will occur less than one day after the December solstice, a nice combination, though we will miss having four moons in this season.

Taurus

Taurus as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London in 1825 as part of a treatise on astronomy.

 

 

This month’s Full Moon arrives today, May 29. The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When Leaves Are Green because it was the first Full Moon of the year when the trees and plants were truly full with leaves.

Many of the names for the may Full Moon are connected to plants. It has been called Flower Moon, Corn Planting Moon, and Planting Moon. Even a name like Milk Moon is related to the abundance of new growth for the cows to feed on that also gave us the name Grass Moon.

The Medieval name, Hare Moon, marks the appearance of the hare out feeding on all that new growth. And the Moon When Frogs Return is a Native American name taking note of the return of one hibernating species.

The leaves of most plants are green. These leaves are full of chemicals that are green, and the most important one is chlorophyll. It is the chemical that allows plants to make food so they can grow using water, air and light from the sun.

I’m sure you were taught in school about photosynthesis. This process occurs throughout the plant and all leaves contain chlorophyll, but not all of the leaf has chlorophyll. Some leaves have green and white or green and yellow stripes or spots, so only the green bits have chlorophyll and can make food by photosynthesis.

Yes, you will find plants and trees with red or purple leaves all year round. They still are full of chlorophyll, but so much of other chemicals that are red or purple that the green is masked.

This is the time of year that I am outside planting and admiring the greening and flower-coloring of the season. The last frost is past and it’s safe in my area to put out the more tender flowers and vegetables.

The health benefits of eating foods with chlorophyll are amazingly numerous. It seems to have positive impacts on almost everything in our body. All hail chlorophyll in our bodies and in nature!

The April Full Moon this month comes late in the month, as do all the remaining Full Moons for 2018.  The April full moon is typically known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Pink MoonPlanting by the Full Egg MoonNight of the Planter’s MoonSeed MoonBlood Moon (which only occurs for some Full Moons and is not really an April event), Mini Moon When Ducks Return and the Growing Moon. It is obvious that this is a time when our focus is on the true flowering and growing of spring.

Had the Full Moon arrived early in April this year, I could have written about snow and winter hanging on, but by this time in the month spring has finally taken hold and there have been a few days that already felt like summer.

My seeds have all started inside and are waiting for that last frost, which in Paradelle can still occur in May.

I’m not a believer in lunar cycle gardening which is an old mythological approach to gardening. The “science” of it is not very strong, but you can use the lunar cycles as a way to plan your gardening. But there are some scientific studies that suggest the changing gravity pull of the lunar cycle affects the water level in soils and even seed and plant cells.You can go look into that theory a bit here.

I plant based on my own calendars kept over many years of when things have sprouted, bloomed and yielded a harvest.

The ducks and geese never leave here for winter and they are grabbing the sprouting grass at the parks, golf courses, and around the ponds.  If you haven’t gotten the mower out yet and see some dandelions popping up and blooming, you might consider leaving them be for a while. They are one of the early flowers for the bees to feed on.

In the Neo-Pagan tradition, this is called the Awakening Moon.

Don’t forget that for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere this could be called the Harvest Moon or Hunter’s Moon.

elkmoon-flickr

Traditionally, today’s Full Moon is the Harvest Moon, but I like to look at other names given to this month’s Full Moon.

I say today’s Full Moon rather than tonight’s Full Moon because depending on the month and where you are reading this, the Moon might have reached its fullness while you were sleeping, eating breakfast, lunch or dinner in sunshine. Where I am typing this post, the Moon will be full at 03:05 pm (EDT), but in Perth, Hong Kong and Beijing it won’t happen until the calendar and clock say September 17 03:05 am (WST).

The Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox is traditionally called the Harvest Moon. It is usually in September, but sometimes occurs in October. The autumn equinox this year for Paradelle is
September 22, 2016 at 10:21 AM EDT.

I do like that the Harvest Moon seems to be one of the rare names that both the English and many Indian tribes of eastern and northern North America agreed on. Other Native American names included the also harvest-themed Corn Moon and Barley Moon.

You will often see the Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon portrayed in photos and artwork as being very red or orange, which gives it an autumnal look. But any red effect is more of the seasonal tilt of the earth and the atmospheric conditions of nightfall. That reddish color of the moon as it rises low in the sky is from viewing it through a greater amount of atmospheric particles, including pollution and smoke. It looks whiter when it is higher overhead. All those particles scatter the blue part of the light spectrum, allowing the red end of the spectrum a straighter path to your eyes and the chance to dominate. Itis why the sunrise and sunset look so much more red.  That’s less Romantic than thinking the Moon changed colors along with the tree leaves.

This month’s Full Moon is also called the Elk Call Moon. Although this is partially a reference to hunting, the Hunter’s Moon is a more modern name for the Full Moon that follows the Harvest Moon. That would be our October Full Moon.

Still today, most elk hunting begins around early September in a time known as pre-rut. During the summer, elk bulls’ grow their antlers grow and that ends late August, when testosterone levels rise and they begin the process of gathering as many cows as possible in harems jealously guarded by the herd bull for the duration of the rut. This is also when their vocalization increases and peaks the last two weeks of September.

Keep in mind that our friends in the southern hemisphere view the Full Moons of September, October and November as the Full Moons of spring.

 

moon deer

This month’s Full Moon comes early, on March 5th and this year I chose a Celtic name for it: Moon of the Winds. The Cherokee name for the March Full Moon is translated as a similar Windy Moon. For those southwestern people, their Anvyi is the first Full Moon of the new season and a traditional start of the new cycle of planting and a time when new council fires are made.

In past years, I have used some of its other names which are mostly derived from nature and animal behavior: Sap Moon, Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon, Maple Moon.and Fish Moon. One name comes from religion: the Lenten Moon.

Some consider this the “last Full Moon of winter” but depending on when the April Full Moon arrives (this year early on the 4th) and where you live, next month’s Full Moon may not feel like spring to you. In 2013, the Full Moon was on the 27th and so spring did seem at hand in Paradelle. And March is the month that supposedly comes in “like a lion and out like a lamb” – another saying of weather lore that can vary is accuracy quite widely.

Most of the United States will experience some windy days this month as the temperature tends to vary and shift as fronts move across the continent.

Even Winnie-the-Pooh considered this a time to say “Oh what a blustery day! It must be Windsday again!” Hopefully, your Windsdays this month will not be as blustery as it was in the Hundred Acre Wood.

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