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Astronomical Halloween

October 31, 2016


Pumpkin bin supermarket sentinels, cob web fluff, fold out spiders, broom stick witches. Pumpkin patch, amusement park Fright Night, haunted house tours, behemoth inflatable yard ghosts, pop-up fireworks outlets – it must be Halloween.

This year, take a moment to ponder astronomical Halloween, one of four “cross- quarter days” in a year – a cross-quarter day falls midway between a equinox (sun sets due west) and the solstice (sun sets at most northern or southern point on the horizon). March and September equinoxes, June and December solstices plus one cross-quarter between each, makes eight astronomical sub-divisions in a year.

Astronomical Halloween, rooted in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain took cues from the Pleiades star cluster. Cosmically vigilant pagans celebrated Samhain on the night Pleiades reached its highest point in the sky, coincidentally falling at cross-quarter time. Trouble is – the 7th century Catholic church knew nothing of Pleiades or…

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