What Is A Blue Moon?
Nearly everyone has used the term Blue Moon at some point but you may not know that it is an actual rare event that does occur. Blue Moon has been given three different meanings. The first is just a common phrase that just refers to an uncommon event that has nothing to do with the moon at all.
Another is simply a description of the color of the moon which is rarely blue but frequently yellow.
Folklore gives meaning to the moons too. The oldest blue moon definition is for the extra moon that presents itself in the quarter of the year that would normally offer three full moons but occasionally has four. Randomly, it is actually the third full moon in the season that houses four. The "extra" moon is the "blue" moon.
So can a moon be blue?
Various Blue Moons
Visible Blue Moons
The most well known Blue Moons do not necessarily refer to a full moon but rather to a moon that actually appears blue. This is a very rare event. The blue effect can be a result of dust particles or smoke in the atmosphere. Viewers witnessed such a spectacular sight in Sweden in 1950 after massive forest fires and again in Canada in 1951 when Alberta's forests blazed violently. In 1883, the eruption of Krakatoa caused the moon to appear to be blue for almost two years.
Calender Blue Moons
On the Gregorian calender many people call a full moon a Blue Moon. According to this term, the second full moon in the calender month is the Blue Moon. Calender Blue Moons do not occur too frequently so using the term to refer to a rare event still holds its meaning. One Blue Moon occurs on a calender every 2.72 years. The last Blue Moon that occurred was December 31, 2009.
According to the Maine Farmer's Almanac, Blue Moon refers to the third full moon that falls in a quarter of the year where there are four. This meaning was retired with the death of the original Farmer's Almanac.
Future Blue Moons
2012: August 31
Now the next time you use the phrase, "Once in a Blue Moon," you know where the meaning comes from.
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