Shine on, full moon, blue or not
While some will gaze at a blue moon as the clock strikes 12 tonight, strict Farmers’ Almanac adherents will simply see a full moon.
The Maine Farmers’ Almanac, in its 1932 through 1957 editions, defines a blue moon — which is not actually blue — as the third full moon in a season that has four full moons, according to FarmersAlmanac.com. Because full moons come roughly once a month, a three-month season with four full moons is a rarity not expected until Feb. 18, 2011.
An erroneous interpretation of this rule in Sky&Telescope magazine labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. That interpretation, which has taken hold as an alternate and sometimes more prominent definition, would make tonight’s full moon a blue one. The next blue moon by that definition would occur Aug. 31, 2012.
The Blue Moon Bar & Grille, 120 N. Seventh St., goes by this definition in scheduling blue moon parties. The restaurant will host a blue moon New Year’s Eve party tonight.
Western Colorado Astronomy Club Vice President Jim McSheehy also uses the second full moon in a month definition. But don’t expect him to be out with his telescope tonight.
“Usually a full moon isn’t a time people take their telescopes out because the light washes out all the other stuff we like to look at,” he said.
A full moon rises when the sun sets, and tonight’s will be visible in the Western Hemisphere and in Africa and Europe. The full moon will be visible in Asia and Australia on New Year’s Day. Asians and Australians as well as Europeans and Africans will see a partial lunar eclipse tonight.