It’s about time to start thinking Halloween. And what better way to honor the heavens and Halloween than with a cool themed pumpkin. I’ve included in this preview a couple of photos of my latest batch of space-themed carved pumpkins, perfect for the spirit of Halloween.

I have always enjoyed art, and carving pumpkins and photographing them is a treat for me.

My pumpkins take the shape of familiar celestial objects. I had carved the sun, moon and a worried Comet ISON and a group of planets into four large Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins.

The “sun” pumpkin, weighing in at more than 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms), has a smiling face surrounded by triangles of light that look like sunbeams. I didn’t carve completely through most of the pumpkin, instead opting to create detailed, semi-translucent patterns in the pumpkin’s flesh.

I used this same method to create the ethereal moon pumpkin as well. The half-moon’s smiling face is also set against an intricate pattern with stars carved out, letting the light on the interior of the gourd shine through.

The pumpkin named “The Planets Among the Stars” features various faces carved out in somewhat familiar jack-o-lantern shapes. On another astro-pumpkin, ISON — set to make a close brush with the sun — looks surprised, worried and somewhat ghostly as it hurtles across the gourd’s face.

So, what is the point? My answer to that question is that we humans can celebrate the beauty of the night sky in many creative ways. One does not need an expensive telescope and camera. Many important observations of the sky have been done by making drawings with pencil and paper.

When my dad was a boy his best friend’s father was a champion pumpkin carver! That kind man passed along some (but not all) of his pumpkin carving secrets to us kids. I was impressed and became interested in growing my own giant pumpkins! Dill’s Atlantic Giant variety was a fine choice for me, and the largest Atlantic Giant pumpkin I ever grew was some 200 pounds. However, some folks have grown these pumpkins to well over 1,000 pounds. I have seen single seeds from these enormous pumpkins sell for as much $5-10 each.

When I first moved to Missouri (a perfect place to grow giant pumpkins), I met an old man in a gas station. When he learned that I planned to build a home in Jadwin, he looked at me in a serious way and said, “Young man, you can grow a three-pound tomato in Jadwin, a three-pound tomato! Mark my words, young man, Jadwin is the last of the frontiers!”

And living there in the backwoods of the Missouri Ozarks for 10 years, I found he was right! Jadwin was also a great place to study the night sky and to grow giant pumpkins. And my result was ... astro-pumpkins!

Happy (early) Halloween everyone!

Former Arcadian Victor C. Rogus (F.R.A.S.) is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, London, living in Sedona, Arizona.


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