Shine on, full moon, blue or not

QUICKREAD

A moon by colorful other names

A blue moon occurs on the third full moon in a season that has four of them, or on the second full moon in a calendar month with two of them, depending on the source of the definition. Like many other special names for moons, the name has little to do with the actual color of the moon. Here are some other moon nicknames.

• Harvest Moon: The full moon closest to the first day of fall. Rises close to sunset so farmers could continue the harvest uninterrupted.

• Blood Moon: First full moon after the harvest moon. Called the blood or hunter’s moon because hunters used the bright, full moon to hunt by as the days shortened during fall.

• Black Moon: Definitions vary but include having no full moon in a calendar month, having no new moon in a calendar month, having a second new moon in a calendar month, or the third new moon in a season that has four.

• Wet Moon: A crescent moon whereby the “horns” of the moon face upward when the moon is high in the sky. Named the wet moon because it appeared the moon was collecting rain in a bowl shape, according to Hawaiian mythology.

Source: Wikipedia.org.



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.


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