The Harvest is my favorite moon – many moons are worthy, only the Harvest Moon stops me in my tracks. Entrenched in Northern Hemisphere consciousness, striking chords in all who lay eyes on her – a primal moon, one that solidifies changing seasons, a moon demanding attention.
Since time began, a moon to coincide with Autumn harvest. The closest full moon to fall equinox delivers a gift of light – throughout the year moons rise around 50 minutes later each day, at the fall equinox, the narrow ecliptic orbit of the moon results in only 30-35 minutes between moon rise – toss in the light of a full moon and farmers barely notice sunset and moon rise. Harvest safely tucked away before first frost – thank you Harvest Moon.
The narrow angle of the ecliptic means the moon rises noticeably farther north on the horizon, from one night to the next. So there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise. Image via classicalastronomy.com.
This year the equinox happens on September 23. Depending on where you are in the northern hemisphere, September 8 or 9 heralds an early Harvest Moon. Click on the earthsky link above the graphic and scroll down to links within the story for precise details of official Harvest Moon risings in your Northern hemisphere location.
A few hours ago I opened my front door. Life put in stasis Tuesday afternoon began to splutter and whir, opposing forces took their place in line. Three days mail, the dog demanding full attention, my son with a litany of questions and answers, emails, phone messages, garbage I forgot to take out – that excruciating transition between holiday and home. Always happy to home, yet never comfortable with the “transition” , I eased myself back by downloading almost 500 photographs.
Those pictures solidify three short days in my life – a spur of the moment road trip, covering upwards of 2000 kilometers – days packed with laughter, numerous odd quests and eye popping discovery. Too muddled to nail down a single “ponder” – a few snapshots – each one destined to become ponder fodder a day or two from now.
Too tired for background, location or explanation, these were taken over the last few days in the interior of British Columbia. Each has a story to follow.
Miraculously, a window of mid-week opportunity opened in my schedule. With summer threatening to breath her last gasp – the only sensible thing to do is take a road trip. This time tomorrow I’ll be 250 miles away enjoying all the Okanagan Valley has to offer. Visiting family, a little wine tasting, exploring back roads, and hopefully witnessing a thunderstorm or two. I’ll be back Friday – undoubtedly with pictures and a full report.
Mankind is pretty smug, we see ourselves as jewels in the evolutionary crown – top of the food chain, dominant species, masters of our domain, Terms like “natural order” or “balance of nature” play second fiddle to foolish notions of superiority. Language and opposable thumbs gave birth to civilization, evolution dealt us a good hand. We tend to forget nature dealt every species a great hand.
Consider a spore producing organism – no brain, nervous system or ability to move other than mature spores catching a breeze or falling to the ground – you’re pondering Fungus. Now imagine spores that only attach themselves to carpenter ants – spores able to kill hosts just outside their home, use the corpse to mature, grow new spores, and toss them to the ground. Spores guaranteed to infect oblivious ants entering the nest – now you’re pondering Zombie Ant Fungus.
Assistant professor David Hughes of the Entomology Dept. at Penn State c0-authored a paper on Zombie Ant Fungus.
“Ants are remarkably adept at cleaning the interior of the nest to prevent diseases. But we also found that this fungal parasite can’t grow to the stage suitable for transmission inside the nest whether ants are present or not.”
“What the zombie fungi essentially do is create a sniper’s alley through which their future hosts must pass. The parasite doesn’t need to evolve mechanisms to overcome the effective social immunity that occurs inside the nest. At the same time, it ensures a constant supply of susceptible hosts.” – David Hughes
Nature runs a tight ship, evolution knows when to act and react. Zombie fungus isn’t a freakish accident. Dealt the hand needed to maintain balance – a hand no different than the one we got – everything happens for a reason. there’s a reason for everything. If nature decides mankind needs a zombie fungus – use your opposable thumb to tweet #Zombiespores.
Traveling at the speed of light for 2,538,000 years you would reach our closest galaxy, Andromeda. To put it simply – moving at 186,000 miles per second for over two and a half million years, covering a distance of 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles.
If you happen to be in the northern hemisphere and want to try finding Andromeda – now is the perfect time. Attempting Andromeda within cities or urban areas is futile – Andromeda requires the darkest of darkest skies.
Look to the eastern sky around 9 PM and locate the Great Square of Pegasus. Think of Alpheratz as 3rd base – draw an imaginary line between first and third base – that line points towards Andromeda.
Next allow your eye to adjust and find two “streamers” to the north (left) of Alpheratz. Streamers being “lines” of brighter stars. These “streamers” form constellation Andromeda. Find Mirach – the brightest star along the bottom line, let your eye draw a line between Mirach and the star Mu in the “streamer” above – keep going about the same distance above Mu, and say hello to Andromeda. I won’t promise a jaw dropping spectacle – more like a fuzzy smudge.
Finding Andromeda isn’t about razzamatazz. Even if you fail – the act of finding two and a half million year old light from another galaxy, is worth the effort.
Massive holes, deep holes, old holes – space holes. Holes in the vastness of space – vague, imperceptible apparitions free to behave anyway they please. Invisible cosmic riddles hidden from all but infrared light. Holes of unimaginable scope occupying the vast expanse perceived as “empty”. Holes without explanation or understanding – can they bend time, are they portals, do they obliterate everything foolish enough to wander up and say hello?
Images from the European Space Agency (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory found a .2 light year wide hole in constellation Orion. Using infrared technology, Herschel verified a “blob” in nebula NGC 1999 (a star cluster within the confines of Orion) was indeed a hole in space as we know it. Science has a theory as to how the hole opened (a void left when fledgling star cluster V380 Ori was born), beyond that – questions from depth to destiny are anyone’s guess.
A dark patch in a green blob of gas and dust (top) is a hole in the nebula NGC 1999.
Our Milky Way galaxy churns around a “super massive” black hole. Black holes are all about gravity – imagine our planet the size of a dime – small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but weighing the same and packing the exact gravitational forces as its former self. Next multiply that by hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions, and you have a black hole. A region of space so densely packed with matter, gravitational pull won’t let light escape. By definition – an object in space so dense that its escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.
Ancient holes exist beneath our radar. Often referred to as “digs” or “sites” , we tend to ponder them as novels rather than chapters or pages. For now lets just call them holes – I don’t care if the story makes sense or chapters flow sensibly – take a look at some very old “holes”.
Constructed around 800 AD, Chand Baori in India is a spectacular old hole. This Stepwell ( a well behaving more like a pond – water reached by descending steps) has 3,500 steps sloping 100 feet to the bottom. In monsoon season, the well fills almost to capacity.
Derinkuyu in Turkey may not be a hole in the traditional sense, but any civilization that digs a 13 level, over 100 foot deep underground structure able to house 20,000 people, makes my list of old holes. Attributed to the Phrygians around 800 BC, each level could be secured behind rolling stone doors from inside the structure. Sophisticated ventilation kept fresh air flowing to deepest corners, and a tunnel almost 5 miles long connected it to the underground city of Kaymakli.
Qanat Firaun is below ground and excavated by hand – I see no reason not to consider it an old hole. Credited as the worlds longest ancient underground aqueduct, it runs for over 100 miles beneath present day Jordan and Syria. Work began around 80 AD to supply water to the Roman frontier known as Decapolis – capital city Gadara was home to an estimated 50,000 people. Also called the Gadara Aqueduct – so much water funneled beneath the desert, thousands of fountains and baths gave ancient Gadara a staggering daily water consumption of 500 litres per capita. I call that a remarkable old hole.