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Once in a Blue Moon - It Happens on New Year's Eve
December 31, 2009
Those who ventured outside on New Year's Eve were in for a treat,
a Blue Moon that only occurs once every 19 years on New Year's Eve.
A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full
moon in a month - a Blue Moon - occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar
double take was in May, 2007. New Year's Eve Blue Moons are rarer, occurring every 19
years. The last time was in 1990, the next one won't come until 2028.
But contrary to popular belief, this moon was really not a Blue Moon. This popular
definition of Blue Moon came about in 1946 after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine
misinterpreted the Maine Farmers Almanac and labeled a Blue Moon as the second full
moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a Blue Moon as the third full moon in a
season with four full moons, instead of the usual three.
Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on. For
Purists, however, this New Year's Eve full moon doesn't even qualify as a Blue Moon
because it's just the first full moon of the winter season, not the third.
native american moon names.
January ~ The Full Wolf Moon
Amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled
hungrily outside Indian villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the
Moon After Yule. In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied
that name to the next moon.
February ~ The Full Snow Moon
Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to
some tribes this was the Full Hunger Moon.
March ~ The Full Worm Moon
In this month the ground softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return
of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing
of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover
becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking
the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. This is also the Paschal Full Moon;
the first full Moon of the spring season. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is
Easter Sunday, which indeed will be observed two days later on Sunday, March 27.
April ~ The Full Pink Moon
The grass pink or wild ground phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the
spring. Other names were the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and -- among
coastal tribes -- the Full Fish Moon, when the shad came upstream to spawn.
May ~ The Full Flower Moon
Flowers are abundant everywhere. It was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the
June ~ The Full Strawberry Moon
Known to every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.
July ~ The Full Buck Moon
When the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety
fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most
frequent. Sometimes also called the Full Hay Moon. The Moon will also be at perigee later
this day, at 4:00 p.m., at a distance of 221,928 mi./357,158 km miles from Earth. Very
high ocean tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full Moon.
August ~ The Full Sturgeon Moon
When this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake
Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the
moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
September ~ The Full Harvest Moon
Traditionally, this designation goes to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal
(Fall) Equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but
every third year it occurs in October. At the peak of the harvest, farmers can work into
the night by the light of this moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes
later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise
at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only
10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and
wild rice -- the chief Indian staples -- are now ready for gathering.
October ~ The Full Hunter's Moon
With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have
been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble, and can more easily see the fox, also
other animals, which have come out to glean and can be caught for a thanksgiving banquet
after the harvest.
November ~ The Full Beaver Moon
Time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter
furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon comes from the
fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Also called the
December ~ The Full Cold Moon
Among some tribes, the Full Long Nights Moon. In this month the winter cold fastens its
grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest. Also sometimes called the Moon
before Yule (Yule is Christmas). The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name
because the midwinter night is indeed long and the Moon is above the horizon a long time.
The midwinter full Moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to
the low Sun.