As if 2020 wasn’t shaping up to be interesting enough already, a blue moon will grace the night sky on Halloween night. This is exciting news, not only for the spooky timing but because it will be the first blue moon on Halloween in 76 years, as well as the first blue moon visible in every time zone since 1944.
“In this case, the moon’s cycle is under 30 days, because of that you can have an event that you get more than one full moon in a given month,” Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, tells Yahoo Life. “The second full moon of any given month, we refer to as a blue moon.”
October 2020 is bookended by full moons, with the first one falling on the first day of the month, and the second on the last.
Contrary to what the name suggests, this full moon will not actually be blue. Faherty says that there are occasions where the moon can appear to change color, due to an effect caused by the earth’s atmosphere. “It changes color as it passes through the most amount of atmosphere, it can create these gorgeous colors for you,” she says. “So it will look orange, it can even look blueish.”
When and how to see the blue moon
As for what time to view the blue moon, Faherty suggests trying to get a look at the moonrise. “Everybody gets all romantic about the sunrise and the sunset but a moonrise and a moonset can be very dramatic and exciting,” Faherty tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are spectacular.”
The moon will rise around 6:13 p.m. ET in New York and 6:23 p.m. PT in Los Angeles, but Faherty recommends checking resources like Time and Date to find the exact time for the moonrise in your area.
“The moon is our cosmic partner, but it’s also a gigantic lightbulb in the sky,” she says. No telescopes or binoculars are necessary to view the beauty of the full moon.
Is it actually rare?
“The expression as it goes is, ‘Once in a blue moon.’ That seems like something that shouldn’t happen a lot, but that’s not really the case for blue moons,” says Faherty. A blue moon occurs about every two or three years, and for an astronomer, that’s really not so rare after all.
“I don’t like to call things that can happen many times in my lifetime a rare event,” she says. “My preference is for something that’s maybe going to happen once if not maybe ever in my lifetime.”
Faherty says a more accurate rare phenomenon to reference would be a Milky Way supernova —when a star explodes in our galaxy — which happens approximately every 50 years. A “very, very rare” occurrence according to Faherty.
“[A supernova] can be so bright that it even rivals the moon,” she says. “I would say then, ‘Once in a Milky Way supernova’ would be the expression that we should swap out for ‘Once in a blue moon.’”
According to NASA, a blue moon won’t fall on Halloween again until 2039.
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