Procrastinators Beware: August 31 2012, the real blue moon is coming according to NASA. If you’ve ever heard someone utter the phrase “once in a blue moon,” you’ve assumed they were speaking about something that happens very rarely. Most people don’t realize there is an actual celestial event known as a blue moon, and the next one is scheduled to occur later this week. For those of you with things that only happen “once in a blue moon,” you’d better start preparing.
But what is a blue moon?
Surprisingly, a blue moon isn’t really blue, and the reason behind the name is likely hidden away in some ancient text somewhere. A blue moon is instead when the full moon occurs twice in one calendar month.
That may not seem like it’s really that rare, but the last event was back in 2010, and another is not expected until 2015. On average, earthlings can expect to witness a blue moon approximately every 2 and a half years.
So can the moon really be blue?
The only chance a blue moon will actually be blue is if a volcano happens to erupt at the same time, an event which can throw up enough fine ash into the air to create all sorts of visual anomalies. In 1883 when one massive volcanic eruption spewed ash into the air, moons reportedly the color of the ocean were seen around the world—for two years after the event. These, of course, were not true blue moons, but rather moons that were seen as blue because of the atmospheric disturbance.
The same anomaly can be seen with moonlight streaming through the clouds after an eruption. Even if the ash is not high enough to change the hue of the moon itself, the light streaming down can often appear green or blue. NASA states this change in coloration happens because both volcanoes and forest fires are known to spew out particles which obscure the wave length of red light. It is a very rare occurrence, but it does happen.
So yes! You can see a real blue moon.
As for the real blue moon, there won’t be much in the way of spectacular visuals unless you live in a part of the world where the moon appears exceptionally large this time of year. The only thing that common folk may experience is the legendary increase in crime which people say accompanies such an event, though there is no scientific basis for this urban myth.
If it is indeed true that all things sinister and evil come out to run amok during the month’s full moon, shop keepers and good Samaritans had better lock their doors twice this month.
Beyond the hap stance chance for mischief, the blue moon won’t carry with it much mystery or excitement, but it is an event only witnessed every few years. Since we aren’t sure if we’ll be around at the end of 2012 or not, maybe you should grab a beer and enjoy the moment with a loved one.