Look up this Halloween
October 2020 is an unusual month. And in these COVID times that’s saying a lot! Something will happen on Halloween that hasn’t happened since March 2018. In fact, Halloween is a double whammy for another event, and that one hasn’t happened since October 31, 2001!
First, there will be a full moon on Halloween, the second full moon in the month of October this year! That means Halloween’s is called a “blue moon,” the term given to the second full moon in one month (the first happened Oct. 1). Many Halloween images include the full moon, black cats, and flying bats. I can’t promise cats nor bats, but the full moon is a guarantee.
The second “Wow!” moment is realising that the last time a full moon shone on October 31 was in 2001. A full moon on Halloween is much more rare than a blue moon. But a full blue Halloween moon is REALLY RARE! They happen every 19 years, so the next time will be October 31, 2039.
While you are out looking up at the moon, there are also three planets that are easy to see in the night sky. Jupiter and Saturn have been hanging out together near the constellation Sagittarius all summer. They will be low in the southwest sky once it gets dark. Jupiter is brighter, with Saturn shining yellow up to the left a bit, about as wide apart as your hand. Can you spot any of Jupiter’s four bright moons in your binoculars?
Mars shines a fire-orange bright, close to the moon. It’s especially bright right now (brighter than Jupiter) because it’s close to us. Mars is only about half the size of Earth, so when it’s close it seems very bright. When it’s not close it gets very dim. By comparison, Jupiter is very far away but is a huge planet so always looks about the same.
You might be lucky to see Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. These shimmering curtains of light shine in the northern skies, away from the planets’ path in the southern night sky. They are caused by electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere. The most usual colour is pale yellowish-green, but sometimes displays may include pink, purple and red. They may be wispy strands and fuzzy patches, or rippling arcs and curtains shooting across the sky. Wouldn’t THAT be an awesome COVID October Full Blue Halloween Moon – planets – Northern Lights display? Only a meteorite landing in the Countryside Preserve could top that!
Nancy Melcher is The Nature Nut. Send details of your sightings or questions about the natural world to: email@example.com