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11 August 2012

Full Moon, Blue Moon...

Full Moon, Blue Moon
The rarity that is a 'Blue Moon'
This year, 2012, is a special year, not just because the Queen celebrates sixty years on the throne or because it's the year the Olympics are held in Great Britain,  and not even because the Mayans have predicted the worlds end. The reason is simply because there will be the astronomical rarity of a Blue Moon. 

So, what is a Blue Moon? The term 'Blue Moon' refers to the rarity of the occurrence and not the colour that the moon actually becomes, although there have been occasions when the moon has appeared to have a blue hue.

This year will see thirteen full moons as opposed to the normal twelve, which means that one month will see two full moons appear. That month will be August. The first full moon has already occurred - 2nd August. The second full moon will be seen tomorrow night - 31st August and when this second glowing sphere appears it will be labelled, by most, as a 'Blue Moon'.
Full Moon, Blue Moon
Volcano Krakatoa

Interesting Facts:
  • The full moon is only seen every 29.5 days, which is the time it takes to ciircle the Earth.
  • The Blue Moon is used colloquially as a term to mean - 'a rare event', hence the old saying - 'Once in a blue moon'.
  • A full moon is when we see the full sun-lit face of the Earth's natural satellite.
  • The next blue moon won't occur until July, 2013.
  • The moon can appear to be tinted blue and this effect is caused by dust and smoke particles in the atmosphere, and this did occur during the great forest fires in Sweden and Canada in 1950 and 1951. But the most famous instance of the moon turning blue was way back in 1883 with the eruption of Indonesian volcano called Krakatoa. So much volcanic dust was spewed out in to the atmosphere that it created the most amazing golden-red sunsets that could apparently be seen as far away as the British Isles, and the moon shone a bluish-green for many years after the eruption.
  • In 1999 there were two blue moon occurrences-  better known as 'double full moon years' -one in January and again in March. There were actually no full moons in February of that year.
  • The next double-full-moon-year will be in 2018.
  • And finally, those shape shifting human beings - better known as werewolves, if you believe in such things -  transform into evil quadruped creatures when the moon is full and then begins a night long rampage. It is believed that these snarling, ravenous carnivores have no mercy. They will only cause chaos as they fulfil there own desires by hunting, killing, feeding and mating. 
So, there you have it, tomorrow night - 31st August - there will be a full and blue moon, and by all means take a trip to a quiet spot out in the countryside where there is less light pollution making for a far better view of this astronomical phenomena, but let me remind you that there are strange beasts lurking out there during the twilight hours on nights like these... you may well laugh, but remember you have been warned.

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