Look up! – When you can see the rare full ‘blue moon’
CNN — This weekend is your next chance to gaze at the rare full blue moon before it disappears until 2024.
A blue moon is the third full moon in a season containing four full moons instead of the usual three, according to Sky & Telescope magazine.
The lunar phenomenon has been a cultural inspiration for music, art, and language — such as the hit song “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again“, recorded by multiple artists including Elvis Presley, as well as the saying “once in a blue moon” to describe a rare event.
Sources differ on how long the phrase has been in use. NASA reported the first recorded use of “blue moon” occurred in 1528, while Sky & Telescope traced the term’s origin back to the Maine Farmers’ Almanac published in the 1930s.
“Introducing the ‘Blue’ Moon meant that the traditional full Moon names, such as the Wolf Moon and Harvest Moon, stayed in (sync) with their season,” said Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope’s observing editor, in a news release.
This was before late amateur astronomer and Sky & Telescope contributor Hugh Pruett incorrectly understood the definition in 1946, and ultimately helped circulate the popular definition of blue moon: the second full moon within a month, the last of which occurred on Halloween 2020, Sky & Telescope reported.
People in the Americas will be able to see a nearly full moon on Saturday night, before the true blue moon reaches its highest point in the sky early Sunday morning at 1:04 a.m. Eastern time, according to NASA. The moon will reach peak illumination at 8:02 a.m. Eastern time Sunday and appear close to full after dusk that day.
The rare blue full moon, that happens around every 2.7 years on average, will not actually look blue. The color change is even more rare, occurring when “volcanic eruptions or forest fires send lots of smoke and fine dust into the atmosphere,” according to Sky & Telescope.
Upcoming sky schedule
Throughout the remainder of 2021, you might be able to catch these space and sky events depending on your location.
The full moons and their names, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- September 20: Harvest moon
- October 20: Hunter’s moon
- November 19: Beaver moon
- December 18: Cold moon
Meteor showers, according to EarthSky’s 2021 meteor shower guide:
- October 8: Draconids
- October 21: Orionids
- November 4-5: South Taurids
- November 11-12: North Taurids
- November 17: Leonids
- December 13-14: Geminids
- December 22: Ursids
Solar and lunar eclipses, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- November 19: A partial eclipse of the moon, which people in North America and Hawaii will see between 1 a.m. Eastern time and 7:06 a.m. Eastern time.
- December 4: A total eclipse visible for those in the Falkland Islands, the southern tip of Africa, Antarctica and southeastern Australia.
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