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Blue moon had many looking to the skies, taking photos

September 1, 2012 |  7:25 am

People were looking to the skies Friday night to check out -- and photograph -- the blue moon.

The best time to see the moon was at 7:13 p.m., and many people posted photos to Facebook and Twitter. See a sample below.

The next blue moon won't be seen until 2015.

A blue moon doesn't mean the moon actually changes color -- it's the rare occurrence of two full moons in the same calendar month. (The first full moon in August happened on Aug. 1.)

PHOTOS: Rare blue moon appears Friday

The last time a blue moon happened was on New Year's Eve 2009. The next blue moon will occur July 31, 2015, according to moongiant.com.

The phrase "blue moon" has been around for more than 400 years, wrote Philip Hiscock, a folklore expert at Memorial University of Newfoundland who has studied the evolution of the term.

The current meaning was popularized only in the 1980s, he wrote in his piece for Sky & Telescope.

Centuries ago, "blue moon" had more of a literary meaning of the absurd, "like saying the moon is made of green cheese," he wrote.

Hiscock wrote that it was in 1988 when he first heard the term "blue moon" identified as the second full moon in a month, and was asked about it after "radio stations and newspapers everywhere carried an item on this bit of 'old folklore,' as they called it, drawing on an international wire story."

As it turns out, Hiscock concluded, the term was popularized by the radio program "Star Date," broadcast in January 1980. By 1985, the definition was enshrined in "The Kids' World Almanac of Records and Facts," and shortly after that was a question in Trivial Pursuit in 1986.

NASA says the original source of the "blue moon" definition came after an amateur astronomer, James Hugh Pruett, was attempting to explain to Sky & Telescope readers in 1946 what blue moons were, trying to interpret a complicated definition in the Maine's Farmer Almanac that was "so convoluted even professional astronomers struggled to understand it." (The simplified, albeit inaccurate, definition stuck.)

The next full moon will occur Sept. 30, which is known as the harvest moon, and coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival, known for the prolific baking of mooncakes in Asian and Asian American communities.


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