Stargazers and romantics are in for a treat tonight as the month of July is about to see a blue moon. It’s the first event of its kind since 2012 as a blue moon can only be spotted once every 2.72 years.
NASA scientists made the announcement earlier this week.
What is a blue moon you may ask? First thing you should know is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the color blue. But every now and again a month will just so happen to have two (2) full moons instead of one (1). When this happens, the second one is commonly referred to as a blue moon.
It’s a fairly rare (or at the very least special) event as it only repeats itself once every 2.72 years and 41 times per century. The last blue moon occurred on August 31, 2012, and the next one after today is expected to appear on the night sky on January 31, 2018.
In the case of July 2015, the first full moon shinned its light on July 2, 2015, and the second one will shine bright later today, July 31, 2015.
You may have also heard people use the expression “once in a blue moon” when they want to stress that something is rare, beautiful or unusual. The saying was inspired by this celestial event and serves as proof that people have always been fascinated by cosmic events and space exploration.
But how does this happen? Why are there months with just one (1) full moon and months with two (2) full moons? Is there an explanation? Yes. Field experts have an answer for this too. While most calendar months have either 30 or 31 days (with the exception of February of course), full moons grace the night sky once every 29.53 days.
What this means is that there are more days between months than there are between full moons, so the overlap sometimes results in (2) full moons sharing the same month.
Alright, fine. But I still can’t see a connection. What’s with the name? Well, the explanation goes back to before the 1940s. It turns out that the Maine Farmers’ Almanac used to define a blue moon as a moon which coincided with various religious events and other weird dates.
As many people during that time were confused by this definition, in 1946, Sky and Telescope magazine wrote an article trying to explain the phenomenon, but due to an error on the author’s part, the main take away was that the Almanac referred to the second full moon in a month as a blue moon.
Since then, people have generally accepted this definition and everyone kept using even after the magazine admitted their mistake.
It’s worth mentioning that there is an actual moon that looks like it is blue, however the event is nothing to celebrate as it’s a result of atmospheric pollution.
The moon’s light looks like it sports the color blue because polluting particles that result from smoke, volcanic dust and sand lead to terrestrial disturbance, which in turn creates a type of filter that makes it appear that way.
The scientific community informs that blue-colored moons were seen in the past as a result of forest fires that took place in the American west, and as a result of oil field fires that took place in Iraq. Fortunately, one such moon hasn’t showed up on the sky since 1950, when it was observed in Edinburgh, Scotland.