A blue moon is the third full moon in a season containing four full moons, rather than the usual three, according to Sky & Telescope
magazine. The sky phenomenon has been a cultural muse for music, art and language — such as hit songs “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again
” and “Blue Moon
,” recorded by multiple artists including Elvis Presley, and the saying “once in a blue moon,” which describes a rare event.
NASA has reported the first recorded use
of “blue moon” occurring in 1528, while Sky & Telescope has traced the term’s origin back to the Maine Farmers’ Almanac published in the 1930s.
“Introducing the ‘Blue’ Moon meant that the traditional full Moon names, such as the Wolf Moon and Harvest Moon, stayed in (sync) with their season,” said Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope’s observing editor, in a news release. This was before late amateur astronomer and Sky & Telescope contributor Hugh Pruett incorrectly understood the definition in 1946, and ultimately helped circulate the popular definition of blue moon: the second full moon within a month, the last of which occurred on Halloween 2020, according to Sky & Telescope.
People in the Americas will be able to see a nearly full moon Saturday night, before the true blue moon reaches its highest point in the sky early Sunday morning at 1:04 a.m. Eastern time, according to NASA
. The moon will reach peak illumination
at 8:02 a.m. Eastern time Sunday and appear close to full after dusk that day.
The full blue moon, which happens about once every 2.7 years on average, won’t actually appear blue, though — that only happens even more rarely, when “volcanic eruptions or forest fires send lots of smoke and fine dust into the atmosphere,” according to Sky & Telescope.
This moon has had many different names. The Maine Farmers’ Almanac first published Native Americans’ terms for the full moons in the 1930s, according to NASA — including the Algonquin tribes’ “Sturgeon Moon,” named after large fish that were more easily caught in the Great Lakes and other bodies of water during this time, and the “Green Corn Moon.”
The name of the August full moon differs across cultures, however. The Anishnaabe people
refer to it as the “berry moon,” while the Cherokee people call it the “drying up moon.” For the Comanche people, August’s full moon is the “summer moon.” The Creek people know it as the “big harvest” moon. And the Hopi people call it the “moon of joyful.”
See all of the Native American names for this full moon on the Western Washington University Planetarium website
Upcoming sky schedule
Throughout the remainder of 2021
, you might be able to catch these space and sky events depending on your location.
The full moons and their names, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac
- September 20: Harvest moon
- October 20: Hunter’s moon
- November 19: Beaver moon
- December 18: Cold moon
Meteor showers, according to EarthSky’s 2021 meteor shower guide
- October 8: Draconids
- October 21: Orionids
- November 4-5: South Taurids
- November 11-12: North Taurids
- November 17: Leonids
- December 13-14: Geminids
- December 22: Ursids
Solar and lunar eclipses, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac
- November 19: A partial eclipse of the moon, which…
Read More News: When you can see the rare ‘blue moon’ this August 21-23