Features

Once in a Blue Moon.

Dr Steve Lee

(Denver, Colorado): For most of us the moon has always been pretty cool. We watched in wonder as Neil Armstrong landed on it. As children, the cow jumped over it and we were all convinced that it was made of cheese. Well, come this January 31 the moon will turn to a Blue Moon.  You might say we are a curious Cloud, so we turned to our friends and experts at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science.

The Museum is also home to Gates Planetarium and Dr. Steve Lee.  Dr. Lee is a Space Scientist in the Adult & Children’s Programs Department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and is a Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute (SSI) in Boulder, CO. He is a science advisor to the Museum’s Space Odyssey exhibition, and frequently participates in the development and delivery of Museum programs – helping to bring the latest discoveries in planetary and space sciences to many of the nearly two million visitors seen at DMNS annually. He received a PhD in Planetary Geology from Cornell University, joined the Museum in 2001, and joined SSI in 2006.  Dr. Lee knows a thing or two about the moon.

So what exactly is a Blue Moon?

A Blue Moon is the second full moon to happen in a calendar month.  The next one of these will occur on Jan. 31, 2018.

Is this how the expression “once in a blue moon” came about?

This expression has been around for about 400 years. It’s akin to “When Pigs Fly” though in reality “Blue Moons” are not all that rare, happening about a dozen times in the last twenty years. A second full moon in a month is not regularly spaced.  It happens roughly once in two years.

Will we be able to view this event in Colorado?

Yes!  Although strictly speaking, the full moon happens instantaneously.  So, sometimes we’ll miss seeing the moment when the moon is fully illuminated by a few hours (it’ll be full before moonrise or after moonset on that day).

Photos courtesy of Denver’s Museum of Nature & Science and NASA.

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