What is a Blue Moon Exactly and How Does It Looks Like?

You have heard the phrase “Once in a blue moon” many times. What exactly is a blue moon? (Hint: The moon does not actually turn blue, unfortunately.)

Blue moons are not actually blue in colour, but they are still very interesting for many reasons. They are not just an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the night sky, but they also provide insights into our culture and history.

Although the next blue moon is still a long time away, there are many things to keep you looking up in the meantime. Here is all the information you need to know about the lunar event, including when you can see the next one.

What is a Blue Moon Exactly?

A blue moon is a term used to describe a second full moon that occurs within a single month. According to Walter Freeman, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Syracuse University in New York, this moon looks just like a regular full moon.

According to Freeman, blue moons are rare because they occur roughly 29.5 days apart, which is just enough to usually appear only once per month. This means that blue moons only show up about once every 2.5 years. If a full moon happens in the first day or two of most months, then there will be a blue moon at the end of the month. Blue moons cannot happen in February, even in leap years, because February is shorter than a lunar cycle.

The term can also be used to describe the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. This is because most seasons only have three full moons. A blue moon occurs when there are four full moons between a solstice and an equinox, and the third one in the group is considered the blue moon. These are appropriately named seasonal blue moons.

This is the older definition of “blue moon,” but our understanding of it has changed over time. “Blue moon” doesn’t have a specific scientific meaning in astronomy, so it can mean different things to different people,” Freeman explains.

According to EarthSky, a mistake in the term’s original publication in the 1940s became popular in pop culture. This led to calendrical blue moons being widely recognised.

According to NASA, it is possible to have two blue moons in one calendar year, but this is very rare and only happens about four times every century. Earthquakes are most likely to happen in January and March. However, they only occur in February when there is no full moon, which is called a black moon. The most recent event like this happened in 2018, and the next one won’t happen until 2037.

The Traditional Definition of a Blue Moon

There is debate about which of the 13 full moons is considered the blue moon. A blue moon is traditionally defined as the third full Moon in a season that has four full moons. The definition of seasons can be confusing for people who use the standard calendar. In astronomy, the seasons start and end at specific times called equinoxes and solstices. For example, the winter season starts at the winter solstice and ends at the spring equinox. The spring season starts at the spring equinox and ends at the summer solstice, and so on.

Why is It Known As a Blue Moon?

The term’s historical origins and its two definitions are not well-known and have some uncertainty surrounding them. According to many accounts, there may have been a mistake in interpreting its meaning.

What is a Blue Moon Exactly and How Does It Looks Like?

Some people think that the phrase “blue moon,” which means something rare, might have come from when smoke and ashes from a volcanic eruption made the Moon appear blue. Some people believe that the term “Blue Moon” originated over 400 years ago. Folklorist Philip Hiscock suggests that in the past, referring to a Blue Moon meant that something was absurd and unlikely to occur.

Origins of the Seasonal Full Moon

A seasonal Blue Moon is the third Full Moon in a season that has four Full Moons. This definition originated from the Maine Farmer’s Almanack, which is no longer in publication. The Almanack says that when there is a 13th Full Moon in a year, it causes changes to the schedule of Church festivals. The number 13 is considered unlucky and it is difficult to calculate when a Full Moon will occur. Because of this, an extra Full Moon is called a Blue Moon.

The reason why the third Full Moon of the season is called the Blue Moon is because of the Christian ecclesiastical calendar. The calendar uses the different stages of the Moon to figure out the specific dates for holidays such as Lent and Easter.

The month of Lent includes the last Full Moon of winter, known as the Lenten Moon. The first Full Moon of spring, which is also called the Easter Moon or the Paschal Moon, happens right before Easter. The term “Blue Moon” was used to name the third Moon of the season. This was done to make sure that Lent and Easter happened at the same time as the correct Moon phases. It also ensured that other celebrations and customs would still occur at their intended times.

Origins of the Monthly Blue Moon

The Blue Moon is commonly defined as the second Full Moon in a month. This definition came about because of a mistake made by amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett in a 1946 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine. The mistake became widely believed and spread as if it were true. It was even included as an answer in the 1986 version of the board game Trivial Pursuit! Today, this definition is now considered a second definition of the Blue Moon instead of being seen as a mistake. You can find the dates and times of both seasonal and monthly Blue Moons in your time zone on timeanddate.com.

How Rare is a Blue Moon?

In order for a monthly Blue Moon to happen, there needs to be a Full Moon at the start of the month. The reason for this is that the time between two Full Moons is about 29.5 days, which is slightly less than the length of most months in the Gregorian Calendar.

Seasonal Blue Moons happen a little less often than monthly Blue Moons. Between the years 1550 and 2650, there are 408 seasonal Blue Moons and 456 monthly Blue Moons. This means that either type of Blue Moon happens approximately every two or three years.

What is a Blue Moon Exactly and How Does It Looks Like?`

Blue Moons that appear blue are very uncommon and are not related to the calendar or the Moon’s phases. Instead, they occur due to specific atmospheric conditions. On rare occasions, a Full Moon can appear blue due to volcanic ashes and smoke, water droplets in the air, or certain types of clouds.

Double Blue Moon

Because of this, February, which has 28 days in a regular year and 29 days in a leap year, can never have a Blue Moon in any given month. A Black Moon is when February doesn’t have a Full Moon. A February with no Full Moon occurs when both January and March have a Blue Moon.

This phenomenon is called a Double Blue Moon and it is not very common. It happens only about three to five times in a century. In 2018, we were able to see a Double Blue Moon in most time zones. We will have the opportunity to see it again in 2037, which is 19 years later, in many time zones.

Seasonal and Monthly Blue Moons Together

Blue Moons can happen both seasonally and monthly, and they can even occur in the same year. From 1550 to 2650, there are 20 years where many time zones experience both a seasonal and a monthly Blue Moon. The previous occurrence of this event was in 1934, and the next occurrence will be in 2048.

During this time, there have been 21 years with Triple Blue Moons. This means there was one seasonal Blue Moon and two monthly Blue Moons in the same calendar year. The next occurrence will be in the year 2143, while the most recent occurrence was in 1961.

Having two seasonal Blue Moons in a year is impossible because it would mean there are 14 Full Moons in the same year.

Does Blue Moon Actually Look Blue?

Blue-colored moons are even more uncommon than blue moons, and they may not always be full. “The moon doesn’t produce its own light; it simply reflects sunlight,” Freeman explains. “Anything that would make the moon look different is something that occurs on Earth, rather than something that happens to the moon.”

When there is smoke, dust, or other particles in the air, they can make the moonlight look blue to us. The moon may have appeared blue after the Krakatoa eruption, similar to the beautiful sunsets caused by dust clouds. This can happen at any time, not only during full moons. If you’re hoping to see a real blue-colored moon, you might be disappointed: Freeman says that he has never witnessed this before because it is a very uncommon occurrence.

Symbol of a Blue Moon

If you want to understand the meaning of blue moons, here’s a simple explanation: They are not considered special for any cosmic reason, and some cultures do not even acknowledge them.

According to Freeman, blue moons are basically a result of how we organise time. “These things in the sky, they were the first clocks,” he says. “We understand that the sun rises once every 24 hours, the seasons change approximately every 365 sunrises, and the moon goes through a cycle of phases every 29 or 30 days.” However, these time intervals do not divide evenly.

Is Blue Moon a Real Term in Astronomy?

Yes! A blue Moon, according to the 19th century definition from the Maine Farmer’s Almanack, is the third full Moon in a season that has four full Moons. It is also known as a “seasonal” blue Moon. Astronomical seasons usually have three full Moons, but sometimes there will be four due to how the Moon phases align with our calendar based on the Sun. The most recent blue Moon happened on August 22, 2021, and the next one will occur on August 19, 2024, based on this definition.

However, there is a more commonly accepted definition that originated from a mistake made by an author of Sky and Telescope magazine in an article published in March 1946. A blue Moon is the second full Moon in a calendar month, also known as a “monthly” blue Moon.

This is another unusual feature of our calendar! The calendar we use is based on the Sun. Each month in the calendar can have either 28, 29, 30, or 31 days. The Moon takes about 29.5 days to complete one orbit around the Earth. This means that sometimes a Full Moon can occur at the beginning of a calendar month and then again at the end of the same month.

The most recent monthly blue Moon happened on October 31, 2020, and the next one will be on August 31, 2023. Sometimes, every 19 years, there can be no Full Moons in a calendar month! We are excited for February 2037! In the year 2037, there will be two occasions where we will see two blue Moons in a single month. This will happen in January and March.

Conclusion

A blue moon is a rare second full moon that occurs within a single month, occurring roughly 29.5 days apart. They are not blue in color but provide insights into our culture and history. The term can also be used to describe the third full moon in a season with four full moons, known as seasonal blue moons. The term’s historical origins and definitions are uncertain, with some suggesting it originated over 400 years ago. The term was used to name the third Full Moon of the season in the Christian ecclesiastical calendar to ensure that Lent and Easter occurred at the same time as the correct Moon phases. The monthly blue moon is commonly defined as the second Full Moon in a month, but this definition was mistaken and is now considered a second definition.

A blue moon is rare and occurs only every two to three years, with the most recent occurring in 2037. It is not related to the calendar or the Moon’s phases, but rather to specific atmospheric conditions. Blue-colored moons are rare and may not always be full, as they reflect sunlight on Earth. A blue moon is the third full Moon in a season with four full Moons, or a “seasonal” blue Moon. The most recent monthly blue Moon occurred in 2020, and the next one will occur in 2023. In 2037, there will be two instances of two blue Moons in a single month, occurring in January and March. Blue moons are not considered special for any cosmic reason and are a result of how we organize time.

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