From our archive, 6 October 1933: The October mini-sunset for hunters

• There are no known accounts of any dragon or other beasty scavenger feeding on the dead. The term for this eerie phenomenon has been derived from the appearance of the moon’s crescent in October.

• The “hunter’s moon” is only visible during the last full moon, in mid-October. This happens because the moon’s distance from the Earth is not the same size every month, and at its nearest point it is the smallest distance (0.28 degrees) in the last month of the year.

• Hunters are plants that depend on the moon for light. As the sun sets and the light of the moon disappears, hunters turn into shadows and the moon turns into a bluish-black centre that they conceal.

• The name of this incredible phenomenon was largely settled by the IAU on October 5, 1935. Henceforth it would refer to any December full moon that occurred on or after the fourth full moon after the autumnal equinox.

• The red solstice is shown on both the July and the October moons. Unlike the moon, the summer solstice in its winter months does not change colour. The sun’s progress across the celestial equator has brought it at just the right time to reach a level of shading at the winter solstice, making the day of that year’s solstice red.

• One hypothesis for the origin of autumnal equinox, winter solstice and spring equinox is that the sun was first spotted in August due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis towards the sun. One first indication of this were gigantic ice caps in the Arctic when they formed and melted in a predictable pattern around the time of the equinoxes.

• The name of the process can be traced back several thousand years. The Blue Moon is a Greek term of roughly the same origins.

• The summer solstice, due in 1982, is claimed to be the first time in recorded history that a winter solstice has occurred in spring. Yet the summer solstice as well as the winter solstice occurred at least 200 years before the invention of recorded history.

• During the spring/summer season, daytime temperatures typically increase by four degrees C compared to the previous winter. The opposite pattern is true in the autumn.

• Humans have used the same summer seasons as a basis for records of plants flowering in 1000 BC and in the Bronze Age in Europe. These records are in fact not all that reliable.

• Historians have used the autumnal equinox and winter solstice as signs of the times, building up to 600BC as the year when the practice of agriculture began.

• Astronomers have used the same date, 11 September to 6 January, for eclipses since the 17th century. When the link was broken, charts showing summer solstice, winter solstice and spring equinox were widely published as on-lines charts. In the modern age this link has been broken in slightly more complex computations using the global mean index of temperatures.

• Another myth is that the fall or winter solstice was first mentioned in writing by the Pythagoras of Philargaea. This claim is based on a translation of passages from his marriage pottery plate, which includes the solstice table and breakfast gourd. Other sources also give the same translation, but the exact date of the mention is unknown.

• The ancients, however, had a lot more up their sleeves. Historians have noted that the classical World Goth culture celebrated the end of winter with various festivals including the Festival of the Sun. With the passage of time the festival has evolved to include the Autumn Equinox, only a few weeks after the start of winter.

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