Hunter’s Moon and Lunar Eclipse


Be sure to mark next Wednesday October 8 on your calendar.  That is because it is the Hunter’s Moon and if skies are clear we will be able to see a lunar eclipse.

The “Hunter’s Moon” is the first full moon following the Harvest Moon.  It was called the Falling Leaves moon by the Ojibwa.  As the name implies, it marks the time to begin hunting in order to store up food for the winter.  Today, with our atomic clocks and ubiquitous calendars, it is hard to put into perspective that for much of human history full moons were major chronological benchmarks.  Each full moon was named and had seasonal significance.

Also on the eighth is a full eclipse of the moon which should be visible over much of North America.  A lunar eclipse happens, of course, when the moon passes through the earth’s shadow.  With the moon’s cycle of 29.5 days, you might wonder why we don’t have an eclipse once a month.  But because the moon’s orbit is tipped slightly compared to the earth’s orbit the moon is usually a little above or below the plane of the earth’s orbit, so no eclipse occurs.

According to the EarthSky website the partial umbral eclipse will begin at 4:15am Central Daylight Time, with the total eclipse beginning and ending at 5:25am and 6:24am respectively.  Finally at 7:34am the partial eclipse will end.

Can you imagine what early civilizations though of eclipses?  It had to have been frightening.  Most early cultures viewed them with fear and foreboding.  There was also a lot of myth associated with lunar (and solar) eclipses.  The Chinese, for example though it was caused by a dragon eating the moon.  In Norse mythology, Mani (moon) rode a chariot pulled by horses through the night sky and was chased by Hati the wolf.  Occasionally Hati would catch Mani, resulting in an eclipse.  The people would then bang pots and pans and in other ways make lots of noise to drive Mani away.  And it worked!  The moon always returned!

Today, much of the moon’s mystique has yielded to scientific knowledge.  Perhaps like me, some of you, may recall looking up at the moon on the evening of July 20, 1969 and musing over the fact that men were up there (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin).  I marveled at the power of modern science and technology, but I must admit, I also found it a bit unsettling.  The moon lost much of its mystique that night. But a full moon is still a beautiful sight.  So is an eclipse.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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