GET READY TO PARTY!!!
For the first time in almost twenty years, there's going to be a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve.
Don't expect the Moon to actually turn blue, though. The "Blue Moon" is a creature of folklore. It is actually the second full Moon in a calendar month.
Most months have only one full Moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28 to 31-day length of calendar months. The word "month" comes from "Moon". Occasionally, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full Moons squeeze into a single month. December 2009 is such a month. The first full Moon appeared on December 2nd; the second, a "Blue Moon", will come on the eve of the new year, December 31st.
This definition of Blue Moon is relatively new. Many years ago if you told a person that something happens "once in a Blue Moon" they would attach no astronomical meaning to the statement. Blue moon simply meant rare or absurd, like making a date for the Twelfth of Never. But the phrase "Blue Moon" has been around for over 400 years and during that time its meaning has shifted.
The modern astronomical Blue Moon occurs in the some month every 2.5 years, on average. A Blue Moon falling precisely on December 31st, however, is much more unusual. The last time it happened was in 1990, and the next time won't be until 2028.
So, if you are planning something special that will only happen "once in a Blue Moon" this December 31st should be it!!!
Credit: Professor Philip Hiscock of the Dept. of Folklore and the Science@NASA
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