Friday, August 31, 2012

First blue moon in three years to rise on same day as Neil Armstrong's funeral

The first blue moon in three years will rise into the sky on Friday evening. Viewers will have to wait three more years for another blue moon; it won't return until 2015.

The Slooh Space Camera will broadcast the moon beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. The camera will use two feeds, one from the Prescott Observatory in Arizona and another from an observatory in the Canary Islands.

The broadcast will honor Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, whose funeral is coincidentally the same day. Armstrong died last weekend.

A blue moon isn't colored blue, nor is it lonely. It is simply the second full moon of a single month. Full moons occur every 29 days; the last one appeared on Aug. 2.

According to the Farmers' Almanac, one season was normally three full moons (in duration). If a season had four full moons, then the third full moon was named a blue moon.

It's believed that the reason the term has been misused to mean the second full moon in a month is a mistake made by James Hugh Pruett, who misinterpreted the 1937 Maine Farmers' Almanac. He wrote:

"Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon."

The term as it is known today became popularized following its use on the popular radio program "StarDate" on Jan. 31, 1980.

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