The Great Pumpkin

Caught at last!  The first ever image of the Great Pumpkin as it rises from a favoured pumpkin patch on Halloween.
Moonrise at Casco Bay, Maine ~ Imaged by John Stetson.   ©John Stetson, shown with permission

A flattened and reddened moon rises from the Atlantic Ocean. Its top is stepped into several layers.

Ordinary atmospheric refraction causes the flattening. Earth’s atmosphere increases in density nearer the ground. Low moon or sun rays penetrating into the ever more dense air are deflected (refracted) downwards.


The rays then appear to come from higher in the sky – the sun’s image is raised up. The lower part of the moon is raised most resulting in the squashed pumpkin shape.

But the atmosphere is never quite ordinary or normal. Air layers at different temperature, particularly in temperature inversions, cause further refractions to give the stepped appearance. When they are more extreme the moon or sun is miraged. More extreme still and we see mock-mirage green flashes. There is green at the moon's upper rim in the top image but that is more green rim than green flash.

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The vigil for the Great Pumpkin

Linus is sitting out all Halloween night in his pumpkin patch. He does this every year. This time the Great Pumpkin will surely visit him.   “Each year the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is most sincere”

Charlie Brown who is passing by.   “I got a whole bag of stuff. Do you want an apple?”

Linus.   “Thank you.. If the Great Pumpkin comes I’ll put in a good word for you.

Charlie Brown.   “if ?”

Linus.   “.. I meant when.”

Linus – by now desolate   “ ..I’m doomed! One little slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by!” - Peanuts by Charles M Schulz.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown