October 30 – November 12, 2017
Mount Washington — On the wheel of the year, four astronomical events are pivotal: the fall and spring equinoxes and the winter and summer solstices. Known as “quarter days,” they mark culminations and turning points in the changing relationship of planet Earth to our Sun. Quarter days mark the swing from times of equal day and night to times of greatest and least sunshine. People throughout time have created holidays and monuments to express the affects these astronomical experiences have on our lives. We participate in the movement of the cosmos, cultivate and celebrate our connection to the heavens and the land.
“Cross-quarter” days are more or less at the midpoints between equinoxes and solstices. The fourth cross-quarter day, Halloween, five and a half weeks after the autumnal equinox, stirs our communities tomorrow. We light pumpkin lanterns as the season of darkness envelops us. The brilliant, pumpkin-colored star, Arcturus, rises where our own star, the Sun, rises on summer mornings, in the east-northeast, and sets where the summer Sun goes down in the west-northwest. In the Halloween spirit, it’s natural to imagine Arcturus to be the ghost of the summer sun that appears on October mornings and evenings.
Sunrise on the 31st is at 7:25 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT.) Look for Arcturus, the second brightest star in northern skies, close above the eastern horizon an hour before sunrise. Brilliant planet Venus appears to Arcturus’ right in the east-southeast. Search for Venus until about 15 minutes before sunrise!
Sunset on the 31st is at 5:49 p.m. Arcturus sets less than two hours later. When trick-or-treating after sunset, go to a location with a clear view to the west-northwest to catch a parting glimpse of the great star.
Clocks fall back an hour to Eastern Standard Time at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday the 5th, when sunup is at 6:31 a.m. and sundown at 4:43 p.m. The Full Harvest Moon rises at 6:33 p.m. on the 4th, opposite setting Arcturus.
In parting, for the midnight and beyond set, catch a Taurid fireball. They’re a part of the season. Click on video link below:
October 31: Samhain (“summer’s end”) is celebrated as today’s Halloween. Many historians believe that it served as the start of the New Year in the Celtic calendar. It was the day when the cattle were brought in from pasture; those needed for the winter’s supply of meat would be slaughtered. Since Samhain was the death-night of the old year, it came to be associated with ghosts and graveyards. It has happier associations too, such as apple bobbing, which was a form of telling fortunes for the New Year.
Wheel of the year image – http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-weather-watch/2014/07/crossing-into-august-a-cross-quarter-day/