This month watch for The Harvest Moon, the Autumnal Equinox, and learn about night sky art.
The Harvest Moon
But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night
... On this harvest moon... (Neil Young)
What is it about the spectacular full moon at the end of this month that elicits such a response from poets and song writers? It’s as if we’re drawn against our will out of our homes to be outside under this moon to mark the end of the summer season and to celebrate the growing season we’ve just received. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox and so this year it falls on September 30. In earlier days, this was an important time for farmers to complete the harvest and outdoor work with daylight turning directly into the bright moonlight of the full moon. Get out and enjoy the night. Once in three years the Harvest Moon will fall in October.
September 22 marks the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. The sun is directly over the equator and so we experience nearly equal lengths of day and night. Unfortunately the length of day will only continue to decrease as we move through fall and towards winter with those long dark nights.
In The Night Watch – April, I mentioned the International Dark-Sky Association as we celebrated International Dark Sky Week that month. This fall, this association is drawing attention to an “Open Air” art project in Philadelphia, PA that will use powerful searchlights to make patterns in the sky overhead visible up to 10 miles away from September 20 – October 14, 2012. This association, of course, objects to this use of light as a huge waste of energy and has issued a statement to that effect. Who decides whether such wide-ranging projects for the purpose of art or entertainment should be able to light up the night sky in such a manner possibly disturbing the nocturnal activities of insects, birds, and mammals not to mention those of backyard astronomers?