The Archers’ Moon

You can find online or in any of several almanacs the names of the moons.  There is nothing official about these, though many authors will make the bold statement, “Native Americans call this the ____ moon.”  As if all the various native American tribes got together at some pre-columbian astronomical conference to give names to the moons.  Other authors will at least give locality to the tribes, saying, “Tribes in the Northwest called this the ___ moon.”  Considering the plethora of languages and cultures of the tribes in the “Northwest” and lack of written history, I take all of this with a grain of salt, but I’m not an anthropologist.

The names of the moons tend to be seasonal – like the Harvest Moon, though many lack a certain coolness.  For instance, I don’t care at all for the Worm Moon.

My beloved and I have created our own set of names for the moons.  For instance, we call the moon in late June the “Strawberry Moon” and celebrate the full moon be coming up with creative ways to eat our favorite summer  fruit.  We borrowed from some of the more standard names, like the aforementioned Harvest Moon.  This year, we are combining it with a cheese making party.

While admiring the full moon in May 2010, which we currently call the Full Flower Moon (borrowed from the Farmers’ Almanac), it occurred to me that any full moon which happens in late May or early June takes place in the constellation Sagittarius.  The celestial archer.

Sagittarius

I think this is a great idea for the name of a moon!  The Archers’ Moon!  Anybody who knows me, or has read one or two of my previous posts knows that this is a favorite topic of my blogs.  Specifically, traditional archery. How more traditional than the ancient zodiac?! Here it is, my favorite sport, immortalized in the heavens.  And it’s just as official as any of the other names of the moons.  That is, not at all.  But it’s personally relevant.

Hope everybody enjoys the Strawberry Moon on June 26th!

Where Have All the Sunspots Gone?

Let me preface this post by saying that I mistrust everything I read on the internet even if, or especially if, it is sponsored by a US government agency.   It is not that there is so much that is blatantly and demsonstrably untrue, it’s that there is so much information available that people can find the information that re-enforces their own prejudices while ignoring the rest.

However, I thought that this topic is worthy of note, and you can make of it what you will.

I’m sure that most everybody who can read this post is familiar with the 11-year solar cycle in which the number of sunspots wax and wane.   This cycle has been observed continuously since the 18th Century, and they have been consecutively numbered. We should now be in Solar Cycle 24.

Well, that’s the problem.

The last several solar cycles have shown an increasing trend, and in fact, solar experts predicted that Cycle 24 would be a real doozie.   Turns out that the sun had other ideas.

The number of sunspots have remained at the minimum level for way too long.  In fact, solar historians inform us that the last time it took a Solar Cycle this long to get its act together, it brought on a Little Ice Age in northern Europe.  You see, the problem here is that when there are no sunspots, the sun is dimmer.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, even though global average temperatures remain higher than the 20th Century average, the Winter of 2007-2008 was the coolest since 2000, and the Jan-December averages for 2008 are the coolest of the 21st Century so far.   Some climatological highlights of the 2007-2008 season can be found here.  2008 highlights here.  You tell me if the data support the hypothesis.

Could we be headed for another Ice Age, be it little or big?  If this happens, I predict two things:

1. Al Gore, who wagered his political career on Global Warming, will issue a “D’oh!” that will be heard around the world.

2. People who bought land in Alaska in anticipation of Global Warming will want to trade it for land in Mexico.

It would be nice if we could get some of our glaciers back.

I have been asking people for the last three weeks whether they have heard about the Great Sunspot Mystery, and out of about 50 people, only one had.  Not a scientific pole, but revealing none the less.   It will be interesting to see what happens if Solar Cycle 24 becomes a household word.

I’m not going to post a lot of graphs and pictures here.  You can get far more accurate and detailed information by googling on Solar Cycle 24 and Sunspots and Global Cooling.  Just keep in mind that nothing is certain yet.

Hunters’ Moon

I was jogging through town last evening just after sunset.  Well, jogging is probably a misnomer.  For me, that gait is slightly faster than a brisk walk, but it keeps the heart and lungs working at double-time.  I’m not in a frackin’ race.

There above the oak trees rose the Hunters’ Moon.  Upon commenting on this astronomical observation, my friend Melissa told me about a news story that there is a hunter lost in the Cascades, and I hoped the full moon would bring him some comfort.  He’d still be lost, but at least there would be the comfort of the familiar sight in the sky.

Many, many years ago, I read an article called The Moon was Full and Nothing Happened: A Review of Studies on the Moon and Human Behavior. (1986, Kelly, Ivan; James Rotten & Roger Culver.  Skeptical Inquier) The authors performed a meta-analysis of a large number of studies that examined the relationship between human behavior and the phase of the moon and found no correlation.  They also checked a bunch of studies that claimed to show correlation and they showed how all of those had statistical errors.  Since then, I have seen one statistical study after another showing no relationship between full moons and strange human or animal behavior. 

But that hasn’t stopped people from making the assertion.  I believe it’s because we need there to be a relationship.  We want to feel that connection to the universe.  We are such a communal species that we want to make the cosmos part of our community.  We so much want a personal relationship with the universe, that we’ll invent it if necessary.  It’s not enough to be made, in the words of Carl Sagan, “of star stuff,” we want to hold hands with the stars as well.  I have certainly seen cases where the belief in the efficacy of the Lunar Effect has led to self-fulfilling prophecies.

So while the effect of the full moon would appear to be far more psychological than physical, it’s still a huge part of the human experience.  Just look at the amount of literature on the subject.  And even if the hunter in the Cascades did not take comfort at its presence, I did, and picked up the pace.