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Blue moon

From Academic Kids

The origin of the term Blue Moon is steeped in folklore, and its meaning has changed and acquired new and interesting meanings and nuances over time. The earliest known recorded usage was in 1528, in a pamphlet entitled Rede Me and Be Not Wrothe: "Yf they say the mone is belewe, we must believe that it is true". This implies the expression had a meaning of something that was absurd, and bears close resemblance to another moon-related adage first recorded in the following year "They woulde make men beleue ... that ye Moone is made of grene chese".

In modern terms, the event known as a blue moon is related to the western calendar system. A blue moon is the second of two full moons to occur in the same calendar month. This meaning originated in Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946, as a result of a misunderstanding of an earlier definition (see below). Blue moons occur infrequently (thus the saying once in a blue moon to denote a rare event), because the length of the calendar month in this system is close to the length of the period of the moon's phases (synodic month). They are not impossible, because every month except February is longer than this period by 1 or 2 days. Blue moons occur every 2.72 years. The next blue moons (based on UTC) will be on June 30, 2007; and December 31, 2009.

The original meaning of blue moon was the third full moon in a season when there were four full moons in that season: this had to do with church holy days related to the last or first full moon of a season (like Easter). This usage had been almost entirely forgotten, and the original meaning was uncovered only when researchers for Sky & Telescope magazine noticed that the Maine Farmer's Almanac from 1829 to 1937 reported blue moons that did not fit the first meaning of the term above. (See What's a Blue Moon? (http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/moon/article_127_1.asp))

Visibly blue moons are rare events. They can be caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere, such as happened after forest fires in Sweden in 1950 and Canada in 1951 and, notably, after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, which caused blue moons for nearly two years.

Other uses of the term blue moon include:

Contents

Blue moons in 2004 through 2010:

  • Based on the meaning behind the old sayings — none
  • Due to atmospheric conditions — unpredictable
  • 31 July 2004 — Second full moon in July
  • August 2005 — Third full moon in a season of four full moons
  • June 2007 — Second full moon in June
  • May 2008 — Third full moon in a season of four full moons
  • December 2009 — Second full moon in December
  • November 2010 — Third full moon in a season of four full moons

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