On Friday night a rare blue moon will rise in the sky in an astronomical event that occurs only once every three years or so. If you’re hoping to see the blue moon but the sky above you is cloudy, don’t fret. The web-based Slooh Space Camera will broadcast the event live beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. (The website’s even got a countdown clock to its blue moon coverage.)
Friday evening’s blue moon will allow fans of the late Neil Armstrong to marvel at man’s incredible feat. Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the lunar surface back in 1969. This photo was taken early Friday morning as the moon technically turned full. Photo: Travis Burke
If you’re more inclined to watch the real thing, the best viewing is usually available outside of town, away from the glare of city lights. Viewing is enhanced even more if you can find a nearby lake or pond that will reflect the moon’s light. Of course, avoiding cloud cover is a must, so knowing where to find patches of clear sky is key. Chances are there’s a micro climate near you to do so.
Folklore will tell you that strange things go bump in the night when there’s a blue moon–but what folklore won’t tell you is that blue moons aren’t really blue. The term is a misnomer and actually refers to the second of two full moons that occur during the same calendar month.
Because the lunar cycle is 29.5 days, most months only see one full moon. But every once in a while a full moon rises twice in the same month and becomes a blue moon–at least that is the accepted definition today, even though it originally arose from a mistake in Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946. The next time we humans will see a blue moon is on July 31, 2015.
There are varying theories as to where the term “blue moon” came from, given that color has nothing to do with it.
“Why ‘blue’ was chosen isn’t really known for sure,” Anthony Cook, the astronomical observer at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.
Friday morning’s blue moon as seen through the lens of a telescope in the hills north of San Diego. Friday night will be your last chance to see the blue moon until 2015. Middle photo is of the moon rise over Lake Hodges. Photos: Travis Burke
Friday night’s blue moon is also sure to be savored by NASA fans, as it comes on the same day that astronaut Neil Armstrong is being laid to rest in a private ceremony. Armstrong, who was the first person to walk on the moon, died on Aug. 25 after suffering from complications related to heart surgery.
“This Blue Moon that Slooh will explore Friday night is somewhat rare, but not as rare as the courage and talent of the late Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on our nearest celestial neighbor,” astronomer and Slooh editor Bob Berman said in a statement on Slooh’s Facebook page. “To honor him, Slooh will explore the Sea of Tranquility with its Canary Island 20-inch telescope, live, and have guests who will reveal some of the lesser-known secrets of that historic 1969 event. I think many of our visitors will be in for quite a surprise.”
It appears as if the moon wants to send him off with a memorable goodbye–or perhaps welcome him home.