Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon - December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 'blue moon' to ring in the 2010 celebrations.

Partygoers ringing in 2010 this evening will be treated to the unusual sight of a blue moon. According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. Ancient cultures around the world considered the second full moon to be spiritually significant.

A full moon occurred on Dec. 2 and it will appear again this evening in time for the New Year's countdown. If you're in Times Square, you'll see the full moon right above you.

The New Year's Eve blue moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa. In Australia and Asia, the full moon does not show up until New Year's Day, making January a blue moon month for them.

A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2 1/2 years. The last time this happened was in May 2007.

The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer's Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three. Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on.

For purists, however, this New Year's Eve full moon doesn't even qualify as a blue moon. It's just the first full moon of the winter season.

When you hear someone say "Once in a blue moon" you know that they are usually talking about something rare or unusual.

The term 'blue moon' dates back at least 400 years. According to modern folklore, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. February is the only month that can never have a blue moon.

Does the blue moon actually turn blue? No. Blue moons are rare, and that's where the phrase "once in a blue moon" comes from. There are occasions though when pollution in the Earth's atmosphere can make the moon look particularly bluish. The extra dust scatters blue light.

The moon appeared blue across the entire Earth for about two years after the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. There were also reports of blue moons caused by Mount St Helen's in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

A New Year's Eve like this year's really does come around once in a blue moon. For the first time since 1990, we will be able to ring in the New Year under the light of a blue moon. The next blue moon to occur on New Year's Eve will not be until 2028.

As for me, I plan to be at the ‘dropping of the ball’ this evening at midnight. Yes, we have the same event as New York City right here in Buffalo, New York. It is a great community event with an alcohol free party at the local convention center for several hours before midnight. Everyone is invited, especially families with children and at midnight they will have a firework display.

I feel excited and I agree with the ancient astronomers that the blue moon is definitely spiritually significant.

So, eyes upward this evening and take a look at Mother Nature’s gift to us.

photo from Astronomy picture of the day archives

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