Blue Moon Tonight
by James Tabor
By now you have likely heard about the spectacular Blue Moon tonight! But what does the term mean and how did it originate? You will find lots of internet sites the past few days discussing the topic. I thought this blurb from Wired.com was particularly interesting. Also please note the celebration tonight of Neil Armstrong.
The term blue moon comes with a fair amount of confusion — the moon will not actually be turning blue tonight. A blue moon occurs whenever there are two full moons in a single month, a relatively rare celestial event that happens on average every 2.7 years. (The first full moon in August took place the night of the 1st in the Americas, and on the 2nd in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.) The next blue moon won’t happen until July 2015.
The origin of the modern version of this phrase dates to March 1946, when amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett made a calendar error in an article for Sky & Telescope magazine. Before then, the definition of a blue moon wasn’t quite set in stone. It meant different things, including an obvious absurdity, a symbol for sadness and loneliness, a gin and curaçao cocktail, or a rare event. In some very unusual cases the moon will actually appear blue, generally because of dust resulting from a volcanic eruption, forest fire, or dust storm. The twice-in-one-month full moon definition has now become the standard.
I plan to look at the lovely moon tonight but to add to the theme I have another idea in mind.