Once in a blue moon, we get the pleasure of actually seeing a blue moon. This spectacular celestial sight doesn't happen every year, which makes it an exciting occurrence! Better yet, this August brings a super blue moon. If you are wondering what a blue moon is and when you can see this bright sight we have the full details.
What Is a Blue Moon?
The modern (and mistaken) definition of a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. Typically, we see one full moon each month, but since the lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days, and most months last between 30 to 31 days, it is possible for a second viewing of this celestial body to sneak in!
However, the traditional definition of a blue moon, now referred to as a 'seasonal blue moon,' is the occurrence of four full moons in a season. What makes this definition complicated is that the seasons begin at the equinoxes and solstices that occur around the 19th-23rd of March, June, September, and December. This can make timing confusing, which is why most people use the modern definition.
Ironically, blue moons are not actually blue. This title was coined back in the 16th century and it served as an idiom that meant that something was an absurdity or impossibility.
How Often Does a Blue Moon Occur?
We have all heard the phrase "once in a blue moon," which means that something is a rare occurrence, but it turns out that blue moons are not as uncommon as the expression has us believe.
NASA notes that this phenomenon happens on average every 2.5 years. This means that you can see this lunar sight a good number of times in your lifetime!
When Is the Moon Actually Blue?
A moon can be blue in color any time of the year. However, this sight is exceptionally rare because it requires large dust particles to be suspended in the air. When large dust particles from volcanic eruptions and wildfire smoke, as well as large water droplets are suspended in the air, it causes the light to scatter, which changes the hue of the moon to a blue shade.
The reason the moon glows is because it reflects the sun's light in the night sky. The color is specific to the matter that is in the atmosphere and where the moon is situated in the sky.
When Is the Next (Super) Blue Moon Forecasted to Occur?
For those folks who are hoping to get a glimpse of this celestial event, the next blue moon will be August 30th through the 31st, 2023 beginning at 9:35 PM ET (or 8:35 PM CST / 6:35 PM PT).
As long as you have clear skies in the forecast in your area, you should be able to witness this uncommon occurrence. The next 'seasonal blue moon' will occur approximately one year later, on August 19th and 20th, 2024.
The 2023 blue moon is extra special because it is also a supermoon. This means that the full moon coincides with its perigee — the time when the Moon's orbit brings it closest to the Earth. In layman's terms, this means that it will be the biggest and brightest moon of the year.
Interesting Facts About Blue Moons & Supermoons
Now that you know when the super blue moon will be, take a look at these trem-moon-dous facts about these celestial events!
- There will never be a blue moon in February. Since there are only 28 days in the month, and 29 in a leap year, it is impossible for a second moon to occur in this month.
- Not all parts of the world will experience a blue moon at the same time or even on the same day. This is due to the varying time zones across the globe.
- Many believe that the name 'blue moon' comes from the Old English word “belewe” that means “betray.”
- The supermoon will appear 8% bigger and 16% brighter than a typical full moon.
- This will be the third of four supermoons in three months!
- July's Buck Moon (July 3rd)
- August's Sturgeon Moon (August 1st)
- August's Blue Moon (August 30th)
- September's Harvest Moon (September 29th)
- Most National Parks offer full moon and blue moon hikes. This can give you a stunning view of this celestial sight! Just Google the parks in your area to find their specific offerings and schedules.
- While the average span between blue moons is typically 2.5 years, there are extremely unique instances where we see two blue moons in one year.
- The last time this happened was in 2018 and the next time we will see a double blue moon year will be in 2037!
- The only recorded times that the moon was actually blue were:
- The next super blue moon won't occur until August of 2032.
There Are More Magical Moon Sightings This Year
If you happenchance miss the blue moon at the end of this month, there is still a chance to see another super moon at the end of September. Officially called the Super Harvest moon, this will be the first full moon of the autumn season, making it a fun outdoor fall activity for the whole family or for your next date night!