WHAT IS A BLUE MOON?

    Blue Moon

    The saying "once in a blue moon" has nothing to do with color. Instead it refers to the relatively rare occurance of what is actually called a "blue moon". An actual blue-colored moon could occur, and has happened in the past, from atmospheric effects such as a big forest fire on Earth causing a lot of haze.

    The definition of a Blue Moon has changed over the years; however, the commonly accepted definition of a Blue Moon is simple: it is a full moon that rises twice in one month. Due to our calendar days, sometimes the days of the month are less than the cycle of the moon, which is 29.5 days. This can cause the moon to rise twice in one month, near the first and the last days of the same month. It is said that blue moons happen every 33 months or about every 3 years. This relatively rare occurrence has spawned the saying "once in a blue moon".

    A Blue Moon cannot happen in February because the calendar month never has enough days. Sometimes the occurrence of a blue moon even depends on your time zone. During 1993 a blue moon occurred in either in August or September depending on where you lived. If you lived east of the line that runs through the Atlantic Ocean, the blue moon occurred in September, but west of that line it occurred in August.

    Origins of The Definition of a Blue Moon

    A year can be divided into quarters, or seasons. In most years, each season contains 3 full moons. Just as the lunar cycle causes some months to have 2 full moons, some seasons will have an extra full moon. The Farmer's Almanac called the third full moon of any season containing four in total a "Blue Moon".

    In 1946, an article in the magazine Sky and Telescope declared the second full moon in the same month to be a "Blue Moon" in reference to information that the article's author claimed to have found in an edition of the Maine Farmer’s Almanac. However, almost 60 years later, another writer for the same magazine discovered the mistake. As a result, for almost half a century, the modern use of the term ‘Blue Moon’ has proceeded from the mistaken interpretation of a not-so-accurate farmer’s almanac.

    Note that a season isn't exactly a quarter of a year. It is slightly altered because of the archaic Christian ecclesiastical calendar. This was the calendar used by the Christian church to determine the exactly date for certain holidays such as Easter, and it did not use the same lunar cycle that modern science recognizes.

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