What is a 'blue moon' anyway?
August 31 will arrive with a blue moon, and it won't happen again for three years. What exactly is a blue moon? And where did it get its name?
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But thanks to a couple of misinterpretations of this cryptic definition, first by a writer in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and much later, in 1980 in a syndicated radio program, it now appears that the second full moon in a month is the one that's now popularly accepted as the definition of a blue moon.Skip to next paragraph
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This time around, the moon will turn full on Aug. 31 at 9:58 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (6:58 a.m. Pacific Standard Time), making it a blue moon.
However, there is an exception: for those living in the Kamchatka region of the Russian Far East as well as in New Zealand, that same full moon occurs after midnight, on the calendar date of Sept. 1. So in these regions of world, this will not be the second of two full moons in August, but the first of two full moons in September. So, if (for example) you reside in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky or Christchurch, you'll have to wait until September 30 to declare that the moon is "officially" blue.
Blue Moon/New Moon
While we've assigned the name blue moon to the second full moon of the month, it seems that we have no such name for the second new moon of the month. Nonetheless, these opposing phases seem to be connected with each other. For if two new moons occur within a specific month, then in most cases, four years later, two full moons will also occur in that very same month.
As an example, there were two new moons in August 2008. Now, four years later, August 2012 will be graced with two full moons.
The next time we will see two full moons in a single month comes in July 2015 (July 1 and 31). But if you still have a calendar leftover from last year, check the month of July.
You'll find that there were two new moons on the 1st and the 30th.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.
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