Once in a Blue Moon

Image credit: NASA/MSFC

On Aug. 31, if the night sky is clear, you will be able to see the second full moon of the month, which is called a “blue moon.”

You may have heard the expression, “once in a blue moon,” meaning “almost never,” because having 13 full moons in a calendar year — instead of the usual 12 — is rare.

Once in a blue moon, an individual who embodies the spirit of an explorer crosses the horizon in our culture. Such was Neil Armstrong. It is appropriate that the farewell to Armstrong coincides with the appearance of a blue moon.

A blue moon occurs just seven times every 19 years. The next blue moon will be on July 31, 2015.

Usually months have only one full moon, but occasionally a second one sneaks in. Full moons are separated by 29 days, while most months are 30 or 31 days long; so it is possible to fit two full moons in a single month. This happens, on average, every two and a half years.

So, as we say Godspeed to Mr. Armstrong, take a moment tonight to observe the blue moon, and give it a wink in honor of the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon.