Starwatch for November 2023

Written by on November 13, 2023

Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National Space Society, bringing you the November Starwatch for WNTI-the sound of Centenary.

Did you know that Halloween is an astronomy holiday? It began when the ancient Celtic people celebrated the beginning of their New Year on November first. It’s believed that they determined this by looking for the Pleiades Star Cluster to be at its highest point in the sky.

It was called Samhain and marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter – the separation of the warm and the cold, life and death.

It was a time when ghosts and goblins roamed the countryside. To have protection against this attack, they wore costumes and set bonfires to scare away these ghosts. Others provided food to satisfy the appetites of these threatening spirits. As time passed, Samhain became All Hallows Day, and October 31st became Hallows Eve – or Halloween.

So the ancient ritual that marked the end of harvest time and beginning of winter is called a cross quarter day. These half way points of our four seasons were celebrated by many ancient cultures that watched the rising and setting of celestial bodies to mark their special days of celebration.  Let’s now just enjoy the rising and setting of the planets this month.

After sunset at mid-month, Mercury in the southwest is visible in Sagittarius. In the south, Saturn is seen in Aquarius. Looking east, Jupiter rises in Aries. At dawn, Venus brightly rises in Virgo. Mars is not visible.

So ancient astronomy was used to set up a cross quarter day we now call Halloween. As a result, food for the ghosts and goblins has become – trick or treat.

Until our next Starwatch … Don’t forget to check out -What’s up in the night sky!

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