This October features a full moon on its first day, known as the Harvest Moon, and another on its last, a Blue Moon—as in “once in a,” because two full moons in one month doesn’t happen every year.
The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) invites people to go outside on these respective nights and howl at the moon as part of its first-ever Night Sky Month celebration. The October event was created to bring awareness to the importance of night sky preservation in the Texas Hill Country and beyond.
“The International Dark-Sky Association had planned to hold its annual conference in early November in San Antonio this year, and the idea was a celebration to lead up to that honor,” says HCA program director Cliff Kaplan. “At the same time, October is typically a nice time to be outside in the evening.”
Take advantage of that at a variety of in-person and virtual events. Folks throughout the Wimberley Valley plan to step outside and howl at the moon at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 1. Bandera County is holding a contest for quilt squares with a night sky theme.
“It is hard to do in-person activities right now,” says Rebecca Neill, who works at The Nature Conservancy’s Love Creek Preserve just outside Medina. “I’m a quilter so the idea came up of putting together a quilt block contest as a way to promote the night sky.” Quilters can drop off their blocks or mail them to the Medina Library or Bandera County Visitor’s Center. Grand prize is a private star party, where guests can stargaze on a local ranch with dark skies.
A socially distant star party Oct. 17 in Wimberley features stellar sights projected onto a large screen so no one has to queue up at the telescope (free, registration required). Events also include online talks from master naturalists and other experts, virtual star parties, and more.
On Oct 31, Cibolo Creek Brewing Co. in Boerne releases a special Night Sky Brew. Brewer Ty Wolosin says the Kendall County Dark Skies group reached out to him about a special beer and he collaborated with nearby brewpubs Dodging Duck and Tusculum Brewing Company.
“I thrive on creating recipes connected to something,” he says. “I definitely wanted a dark beer for dark skies, so I did a stout.” He used appropriately named Galaxy and Southern Star hops and added edible silver glitter as space dust. The creation will be available on tap and in to-go cans (with a curbside pickup option). Businesses in downtown Boerne turn down their lights that night, so Wolosin suggests strolling beneath the full moon with your Dark Skies beer—howling optional.
HCA provides suggested activities for those who prefer celebrating on their own. Contribute to the Globe at Night community science project, conduct a backyard lighting audit and, depending on the results, earn a “Be a Star” award from International Dark-Sky Association Texas. The website also has tips and suggestions for those who want to host a Night Sky Month event.
“It’s also a chance to inspire people to go outside at night and appreciate the night sky,” says Amy Jackson, who coordinates HCA’s night sky programs. “And if it isn’t dark enough to do that where you are, maybe ask why. Sights like the Milky Way inspire us and make us think about our place in the universe.”
And that is something to howl about.