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Title: Blue Moon
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Autumn_Heather
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(Date Posted:01/12/2009 20:29 PM)
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Blue Moon

The term Blue Moon has at least three different meanings. One is a common phrase for a rare event, that really has little to do with the moon itself. Another is a description of the apparent color of the moon, which is frequently yellowish and rarely bluish. Full moons are given names in folklore, and two definitions of blue moon are a name for a rare full moon that does not have a folk name. One modern blue moon definition is for a second, extra full moon that occurs in a calendar month. The older definition of blue moon is for an extra full moon that occurs in a quarter of the year, which would normally have three full moons, but sometimes has four. Oddly, it's the third full moon in a season that has four which is counted as the "extra" full moon and named 'blue moon'.

Earliest use in English

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".

Visibly blue moons

The most obvious meaning of blue moon is when the moon (not necessarily a full moon) appears to a casual observer to be unusually bluish, which is a rare event. The effect 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 moons to appear blue for nearly two years.

Farmer's Almanac Blue Moons

The older meaning of blue moon to name an extra full moon, as was used in the Maine Farmer's Almanac, was the third full moon in a quarter of the year when there were four full moons. (Normally a quarter year has three full moons.) The division of the year into quarters for this purpose has the dividing line set between March 21 and March 22. This has to do with the rule for setting the date for the Christian Holy Day of Easter, which depends on the last full moon (as calculated by a somewhat inaccurate formula) on or before the Equinox on March 21 (which is also somewhat inaccurate).

This meaning of blue moon was lost when the editors of the original Farmer's Almanac died. It was recovered 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 meaning of the term calendar blue moon described below. (See What's a Blue Moon?

Calendar Blue Moons

In recent times, people have taken to calling a full moon a blue moon based on the Gregorian calendar. By this use of the term, a blue moon is the second of two full moons to occur in the same calendar month. This definition of blue moon originated from a mistake in an article in the 1946 Sky & Telescope magazine, which failed in an attempt to infer the earlier definition used in the original Farmer's Almanac (see above). It was helped to popularity when a Trivial Pursuit question used this as a source for one of its questions. Sky & Telescope discovered the error nearly 60 years later and the magazine printed a retraction and correction. But by the time the correction came, the calendar definition had already come into common use. Because it is so much easier to understand, the "mistaken" calendar-based meaning has stuck.

Calendar blue moons occur infrequently, thus using the saying once in a blue moon to describe a rare event is still meaningful. The infrequency of extra moons in a month is because the length of the Gregorian calendar months are all very close to the length of the 29.5306 day period (on average) of the moon's phases: the synodic month, or lunation. Second full moons are possible because every month except February is longer than this period by 1 or 2 days, but the odds are low. One calendar blue moon occurs ‹ on average ‹ every 2.72 years. The next two calendar blue moons (based on UTC) will be on June 30, 2007 (but May 31, 2007 in the Western Hemisphere; see below); and December 31, 2009. Because February (according to UTC) will have no full moon in 2018, January and March will each have a calendar blue moon that year.

Time Zone Problems

Occasionally whether a moon is called blue depends on the time zone. Any full moon occurs simultaneously everywhere, but at that moment clocks and calendars are not the same.

For example, when it is early evening on August 31 in Europe, it is already early morning September 1 in Australia. Hence, residents of London seeing a full moon when their clocks and calendar say it is August 31 would call what they see a calendar blue moon. People seeing the same full moon from Sydney would note by their clocks and calendar that it is the early morning of September 1, and they would not term it a blue moon.

Because this is confusing, astronomers worldwide and the calendar makers who rely on them typically choose the time zone of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in England, or the nearly identical UTC time zone. As a practical matter, because the moon seems to the casual viewer to be full for almost three days, the use of a foreign time zone for calendar markings for full moons makes little practical difference.

Reference: Wikipedia

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Autumn_Heather
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RE:Blue Moon
(Date Posted:01/12/2009 20:30 PM)

About Blue Moons

Blue moon?

When you ask someone: "what is a blue moon?" the chances are ten to one that you'll get the answer: "When you have two full moons in one month". If we use this definition, then we have a blue moon approximately ever 2.7 years. Having two blue moons per year is extremely rare, the full moon then skips a month. This happens only three to four times per century. Two blue moons per year always fall in January and March, as Febuary with its 28 days is the only months short enough to not contain a full moon. This year 1999, we have two blue moons.

Definitions

The second full moon in a month has just the same color as always. It does not turn blue at all. So why do people call this a blue moon? Can the moon really turn blue? There are several definitions of 'blue moon'.

Two of them are currently still in use,
1. Four hundred years ago, if someone said, "He would argue the moon was blue," it would be understood as, "He'd argue that black is white."
2. Also long ago, 'blue moon' was synonym for 'absurd'. "When the moon turns blue", would be similar to the expression "when pigs fly". It was so absurd that it would never happen.
3. In astronomy, we have a blue moon when certain types of dust and smoke from volcanoes or forest fires absorb red light. When this happens, the moon and the sun get a blue tint. This however is a very rare phenomenon. It happened in 1883 when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded, in 1927 when a late monsoon in India set up conditions for a blue moon and in 1951 when huge forest fires in Alberta threw smoke particles up into the sky.
4. The phrase "once in a blue moon" means, that an event is fairly infrequent, but not quite regular enough to pinpoint.
5. There are popular songs in which "blue moon" is a symbol of sadness and loneliness.
6. In recent years, the less scientific, but more popular definition of the blue moon has become widespread, namely that it is the second full moon within one month. This new meaning has mainly become popular through the Trivial Pursuit game in 1986. Ever since this definition has been the most widely used.

So which version is correct?

Officially, the third definition, the astronomical one, is correct. The sixth definition, the two full moons in one month variety, may appeal to many people, but has no roots in folklore. But as this popular definition is now so widely used, it doesn't make sense to ignore it in favour of the astronomical description. When people claim that the 'second full moon' definition is wrong, then they are technically correct. Language is a dynamic medium however. So when enough people use a false expression, it will in time become correct. Therefore, at this moment, it is not more than logical to state that a 'blue moon' is a rare astronomical phenomenon, but also an occurence of two full moons within one month.

This article was based on:
"The rising of the bogus blue moon" - Terence Dickinson

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Autumn_Heather
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RE:Blue Moon
(Date Posted:01/12/2009 20:31 PM)

According to some almanacs, a Blue moon is also the thrid Full moon in a season which has four..but this is not an accepted thought in most wiccan traditions...

Blue Moon - four Full Moons in a season

According to an article in the May 1999 issue of Sky and Telescope, the traditional definition of a Blue Moon is the third Full Moon in a season which has four Full Moons. Compilers of almanacs such as the Maine Farmer's Almanac would use a coloured symbol to denote this third Full Moon, hence the name.

When do the seasons begin?

Astronomers define the start of each season according to the actual position of the Sun in its annual journey against the fixed stars. This leads to seasons of unequal length, since the Earth's orbit is not circular. The northern-hemisphere Spring and Summer are slightly longer than Autumn and Winter, so a traditional Blue Moon is more likely to occur in Spring or Summer.

The Maine Farmer's Almanac, by contrast, defined the start of each season according to a quantity known as the Right Ascension of the Mean Sun. As its name suggests, this is based on an idealised, fictional Sun which moves at a uniform speed, giving seasons of equal length.

Since there are two definitions of the start of the seasons, the dates of the traditional Blue Moons can sometimes be different, depending on whether you adopt the astronomical definition or follow the Maine Farmer's Almanac. In the tables below, we give the dates and times of the traditional Blue Moons using both definitions. If a date and time span both columns, then the two methods yield the same Blue Moon.

All dates and times are Greenwich Mean Time.

Traditional Blue Moons in the 20th Century

Year Astronomical Seasons Maine Farmer's Almanac
1902 May 22 10:46
1905 Feb 19 18:52
1907 Aug 23 12:15
1910 Aug 20 19:14
1913 May 20 07:18 Feb 21 02:03
1915 Aug 24 21:40 Nov 21 17:36
1918 Aug 22 05:02
1921 May 21 20:15
1924 May 18 21:52 Feb 20 16:07
1926 Aug 23 12:38
1929 Aug 20 09:42 May 23 12:50
1932 May 20 05:09 Feb 22 02:07
1934 Aug 24 19:37 Nov 21 04:26
1937 Aug 22 00:47
1940 May 21 13:33
1943 May 19 21:13 Feb 20 05:45
1945 Aug 23 12:03 Nov 19 15:13
1948 Aug 19 17:32 May 23 00:37
1951 May 21 05:45
1953 Aug 24 20:21 Nov 20 23:12
1956 Aug 21 12:38
1959 May 22 12:56
1961 Nov 22 09:44 No Blue Moon
1962 May 19 14:32 Feb 19 13:18
1964 Aug 23 05:25 Nov 19 15:43
1967 Aug 20 02:27 May 23 20:22
1970 May 21 03:38
1972 Nov 20 23:07
1975 Aug 21 19:48
1978 May 22 13:17
1981 Feb 18 22:58
1983 Aug 23 14:59 Nov 20 12:29
1986 Aug 19 18:54
1989 May 20 18:16 Feb 20 15:32
1991 Nov 21 22:56
1994 Aug 21 06:47
1997 May 22 09:13
2000 Feb 19 16:27

Traditional Blue Moons in the 21st Century

Year Astronomical Seasons Maine Farmer's Almanac
2002 Aug 22 22:29 Nov 20 01:34
2005 Aug 19 17:53
2008 May 20 02:11 Feb 21 03:30
2010 Nov 21 17:27
2013 Aug 21 01:44
2016 May 21 21:14
2019 May 18 21:11 Feb 19 15:53
2021 Aug 22 12:02 Nov 19 08:57
2024 Aug 19 18:25
2027 May 20 10:59 Feb 20 23:23
2029 Aug 24 01:51 Nov 21 04:02
2032 Aug 21 01:46
2035 May 22 04:25
2038 May 18 18:23 Feb 19 16:09
2040 Aug 22 09:09 Nov 18 19:05
2043 Aug 20 15:04
2046 May 20 03:15
2048 Aug 23 18:06 Nov 20 11:19
2051 Aug 22 01:34
2054 May 21 15:16
2057 May 18 19:02 Feb 19 11:56
2059 Aug 23 09:41 Nov 19 13:09
2062 Aug 20 03:55
2065 May 20 02:05
2067 Nov 20 23:49
2070 Aug 21 19:53
2073 May 21 10:02
2076 May 18 17:38 Feb 19 23:48
2078 Aug 23 08:11 Nov 19 12:52
2081 Aug 19 11:15
2084 May 20 02:36
2086 Nov 20 20:12
2089 Aug 21 06:15
2092 May 21 10:00
2095 May 19 09:21 Feb 19 06:59
2097 Aug 22 23:52 Nov 19 13:03
2100 Aug 19 21:29
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Autumn_Heather
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RE:Blue Moon
(Date Posted:01/12/2009 20:31 PM)

When you hear someone say "Once in a Blue Moon…" you know what they mean: Rare. Seldom. Maybe even absurd. After all, when was the last time you saw the moon turn blue?

see caption

According to modern folklore, a Blue Moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. Usually months have only one full moon, but occasionally a second one sneaks in. Full moons are separated by 29 days, while most months are 30 or 31 days long; so it is possible to fit two full moons in a single month. This happens every two and a half years, on average

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