What’s up with hunting moons? Why October skies sometimes look ruddy

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The moon of October 2011 , pictured on November 22, 2015, is just half the size of the one in October Hunt can be intimidating to some, but…

What's up with hunting moons? Why October skies sometimes look ruddy

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The moon of October 2011 , pictured on November 22, 2015, is just half the size of the one in October

Hunt can be intimidating to some, but that’s not true for the rare thing it is.

Hunting is not the easiest thing for stargazers, but maybe it should be.

Given its origins in hunting, hunting moons are well known to many people: Some know about hunting moons because they still hunt them now, because of hunting moons, and some have seen or heard their first hunting moon of October.

I’d heard of hunting moons because I was told about the one called “Eyes in October”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Astronomer David Attenborough was once asked about the observation of a hunting moon in the desert

But I learned more about hunting moons when I was a news reporter at the BBC in Vietnam.

I think it was the 1980s and I was on my first assignment in the field covering what at the time was a huge story – an American spy satellite crash into the South China Sea.

We travelled to the desert of Ho Chi Minh City, where the US had been trying to collect signals from the spy satellite.

People were out that night, making a cultural observance of the sky. They sat and looked up at the full moon as a kind of celestial elegy, and paid tribute to the USA crew that had been killed in the crash.

The word ‘hunting’ was meant to be a kind of tribute to the United States military for the loss of the two astronauts – Scott Carpenter and Gus Grissom.

To the Vietnamese, they knew the term for the satellite crash was a “dark emptiness”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The United States declared war on North Vietnam on 8 October 1967

But not every person was as excited as the Vietnamese.

We had a Vietnamese man giving us advice about the satellite crash; he said “You can count on only one side” (the North).

I should have asked him about hunting moons, and why everyone looked up at the moon.

That’s what hunting moons are. Our military mission was to hide; to keep the moon a dark mystery.

As I got to know the names of hunting moons around the world, the name “Eyes in October” seemed to me to fit perfectly with the character of the individual hunt, the hunter, I heard.

Did you know Friday 6th April is World Astronomy Day? Here’s the top 10 facts you may not know about the night sky.

The moon’s ethereal image is difficult to photograph, so if someone wanted to check an image for a hunting moon, and the photographer could see a bright orb close to the middle of the lunar disk, that would be a hunting moon.

It’s easy to tell: we see that orb, and we know there’s a hunter close by.

According to legend, hunting moons arrived in the Middle East and South Asia in the 9th century.

The Arabs considered it auspicious to hunt the moons of January, February and September; that’s when the sharia say the moon was most likely to be sat on by men of foresight.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Man who lived in Berlin in 870AD wrote about an observation of the hunting moon in the 9th century

In the 8th century the Arabs, who had conquered Japan, identified a wandering moon that rested in the twilight over the most rural parts of the land, and called it “kassam emir”.

Then in Europe, one of the great astronomers, Constantinos Galilei, who lived from 847 to 890AD, wrote a report of one of his observations of the hunting moon in the first half of the 9th century.

It contained this exceptional observation:

‘I can see the moon shining softly in the shadow of a hill, or certain heights.

On the south side of that hill, I can hear the rustling of the grass.

I can hear the clinking of spades, and the rustling of the rosebushes.

Above that hill, I can see clusters of grapevines … near them the tree of the beans was growing; and very near this tree, I can hear the clacking of the work trucks’ wheels.

We know that’s what he meant. His observations were also about the normal everyday of a farmer.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Originally the hunting moon was seen at certain times of year

Then in the 9th century, the Arabs of the Arabia Peninsula noticed that someone had been keeping watch and tweeting on an observatory at a local shrine.

They discovered this observatory

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