Release the Hounds: October edition

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Two Full Moons in October

This is likely old news to those of us who follow a lunar calendar, of course, but the Harvest Moon rises on October 1. Tonight’s full moon is the first of two full moons in October.

The Harvest Moon is late this year. It is traditionally the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere. An October Harvest Moon occurs about every three years but occasionally can pass. This year is, in fact, the last October Harvest Moon for the next few years. There will not be another until 2028.

Harvest Moon – Image credit: C. E. PricePublic Domain,

The second full moon of October 2020 will occur on Halloween at 10:49 AM EDT (3:49 PM UTC). To add to the evening’s scary features, October 31 will be the last of daylight savings time, so the clocks are changed back on hour that night.

There is also an alternative definition of a “blue moon,” of there being that four full moons in a single season. Typically, each season sees three full moons.

Other planetary events include, Mars accompanying the Harvest Moon on October 2. Mars will be its usual fiery red alongside the moon until October 6.

And while it will not viewable as a celestial event, Mercury begins a retrograde position (where it appears to move backward) on October 13 at 9:05 PM EST (1:05 AM UTC), and does not station direct until 12:50 PM EST (4:50 PM UTC) on November 3, which also happens to be Election Day in the U.S.

Orionid and the Northern and Southern Taurid Meteor Showers

October also offers several other opportunities for night sky watchers: meteor showers. The best viewing for all but the Draconids shower is considered to be after midnight.

Orionids and the constellation Orion – Image credit: Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Orionid meteor showers are forecast for October 2 through November 7, with the peak being on October 20 – 21. The number of meteors averages about 10 – 20 per hour, but there have been years like 2006 – 2009 that were exceptional with a display of over 50 meteors per hour. This year the moon will only be 23% full, so viewing should be fair if there is a clear night sky.

The Taurids meteor showers are both long-running, each spanning over two months, and having several minor peaks.

The first is the Southern Taurids shower which is from September 10 to November 20, with the next peak expected to be on October 29 – 30. The moon will be 98% full, so any meteors are likely to be less visible.

The second is the Northern Taurids shower which is expected from October 20 to December 10, with the predicted for Nov 11 – 12. Since both Taurids showers occur simultaneously in late October and early November, the potential exists for increased activity. During the peak of Northern Taurids, the moon will only be 15% full, so any activity should offer good visibility with clear skies.

The Draconids meteor shower is considered by the American Meteor Society as a minor meteor shower, with only 2 – 10 meteors per hour, and often only one meteor per night. EarthSky lists the range of the Draconids is October 6 – 10, with the peak on the 7th or 8th, and the moon at 22% full. Unlike the meteor showers listed, the Draconids are best viewed in the mid-to-late evening, before midnight.

Volatile Weather Predictions

According to various agencies of by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the IBM company, The Weather Company, October 2020 may bring cooler temperatures to the southeastern USA but, unfortunately, higher temperatures to the West Coast of the US. The weather feature called, La Niña, has formed in the tropical Pacific and will be the primary driver of weather across the world.

La Niña is part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). NOAA explains that “La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.” A La Niña advisory is currently present. An Advisory means that La Niña conditions are observed and expected to continue.

Generally, La Niña creates cool conditions in southern Asia, cooler temperatures in Western South America along with decreased precipitation, wet and cool conditions in the Caribbean, increased rainfall and cloud cover in Australia, and below-average precipitation from Florida to California with above-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest.

NOAA says that the La Niña patterns is expected to persist through the “Northern Hemisphere winter” with a 75% chance. A new update from NOAA will be issued on October 8.

Life on Venus?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported today that it detected the substance phosphine in 1978, but the findings went unnoticed. In mid-September, a team of scientists reported in Nature Astronomy that phosphine gas had been detected in the clouds of Venus. Phosphine gas, they wrote, “is uniquely associated with anthropogenic activity or microbial presence—life produces this highly reducing gas even in an overall oxidizing environment.”

Venus is not conducive to life as we understand it. The planet is hot, consumed by poisonous gases, and has an unsurvivable atmospheric pressure on its surface.  However, there may exist microbes in the clouds.

The team of scientists, however, have not reported that their discovery is life – or even the signature of life.

They wrote “If no known chemical process can explain [phosphine] within the upper atmosphere of Venus, then it must be produced by a process not previously considered plausible for Venusian conditions. This could be unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or possibly life. Information is lacking…questions of why hypothetical organisms on Venus might make [phosphine] are also highly speculative.”

While phosphine may be associated with life on Earth, other processes may be responsible for the substance on Venus.

A Life on Our Planet

Celebrated naturalist David Attenborough and Netflix have released a documentary series exploring the living world of our planet. The series will become available in North America on October 4.

The series press release notes “In his 93 years, David Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring the wild places of our planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. Now, for the first time he reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has seen.”

The series is produced in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund.


The Craft –  rebooted

Capitalizing on the cult status of the 1996 films and the upcoming season, “The Craft: Legacy,” from Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment for Columbia Pictures will be released on October 28, 2020.

The reboot of the original movie was slated for theatrical release but will now be available through video on-demand services.

The film is a stand-alone sequel that was directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and stars Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Michelle Monaghan, and David Duchovny.

The site, ScreenRant, reported earlier this year that a coordinator was hired to ensure authenticity and respect for Pagan and Witchcraft traditions.

They wrote, “The Craft is reasonably respectful of Pagan faith and Wiccan practices, and while Manon certainly isn’t real, it provides a snapshot of a religion that goes outside the norm of the commonly used demonic possession and exorcisms within the horror genre.”

The Wild Hunt will be following this story.