This Week in Nature: October 12-18

Whale’s Head:

whale's head

Look for two circles of stars in the fall sky below the Square of Pegasus. Follow the base of the Square to the left to find the larger, brighter circle. That is the Whale’s Head, part of the constellation Cetus.

Menkar – the brightest star in the Whale’s Head – has an apparent magnitude of 2.53.

Saturn & Moon:

saturn and moon

These two celestial bodies appear together on October 16 (13:20 UTC).



Fall is a time for nuts, and in October no nut is more noticeable than the acorn. Wildlife – large and small – consume and/or cache high quantities of acorns in autumn as they prepare for winter. Oak trees begin to produce acorns when they are about 25 years old. By the time they are 80, they can produce approximately 2,000 acorns a year.

Fall Shuffle & Defense:

skunk defense

Skunks typically have litters of 4-6 young between May and June. They young stay with the family until fall, when they begin to disperse in search of their own territories and winter den sites. This behavior is known as the “fall shuffle,” and it puts roaming skunks at risk by increasing encounters with humans, pets, and predators. However, you can be warned before they hit their ultimate defense. Before spraying an enemy, skunks will threaten with elaborate hissing, foot stamping, and posing with their tail raised.

You may also see them fight with their teeth and claws for den space in the fall. And their powerful front claws are also used for digging burrows for daytime shelter.

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