ST. GEORGE — Cue the Elvis records and step outside Friday night for a “once in a blue moon” night sky lunar event. For the second time this month, the moon is about to become full.
The appearance of the month’s second full moon will be the first such occurrence in America since August 2012, and the lunar event will not be seen again until January 2018. Every month has a full moon, but about every three years, a second one sneaks in and we end up with two full moons in the same calendar month – which means, one of them is a blue moon.
In song and literature, blue moons have long symbolized lost love and melancholy. Elvis set the standard for lunar heartbreak in his 1956 pop hit “Blue Moon.”
But will the moon really be blue? Probably not.
Believe it or not, scientists say blue-colored moons are real, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center. However, squeezing a second full moon into a calendar month doesn’t change its physical properties, so the date of a full moon, all by itself, doesn’t affect the moon’s color.
The moon on Friday is expected to be its usual pearly-gray.
Nonetheless, on rare occasions, the appearance of a blue moon can happen.
Typically, a truly-blue moon, or one that takes on a bluish hue, requires a volcanic eruption, adding smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere.
In 1883, for example, when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted with the force of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb, people saw blue moons almost every night for years when the plumes of ash rose to the very top of Earth’s atmosphere, according to the NASA website. Krakatoa is still smoldering after all these years.
Certain forest fires can also do the trick, according to the website. Clouds of smoke containing micron-sized oil droplets from the giant Muskeg Fire in Alberta, Canada, in September 1953 produced blue moons all the way from North America to England.
When the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined, it meant something so rare you’d be lucky to see it in your lifetime, according to the NASA site.
In addition to the blue moon, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht, capable of producing up to 20 meteors per hour, will also be putting on a night sky show. The shower runs annually from July 12 to Aug. 23.
Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year.
Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
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