The month of March is ending in style, treating sky gazers to the second Blue Moon since the beginning of the year. The March Blue Moon will light the sky this Saturday (March 31), rising at 8:37 a.m. EDT.
The upcoming Blue Moon should not be missed and is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, this weekend’s celestial event is the last chance for sky watchers to witness a Blue Moon for the next couple of years. The next Blue Moon to grace the sky won’t be visible until 2020, Space.com reported yesterday. Two years from now, the Blue Moon will fall on October 31, turning Halloween night into a noteworthy spectacle.
According to the media outlet, blue moons typically occur once every 2.66 years and mark the occasion of two full moons showing up within the same calendar month.
But there’s more to the March Blue Moon than it just being the second full moon of the month. This Blue Moon will rise during the Easter weekend, thereby becoming a Paschal Moon, Space.com notes in a separate article.
This means that it is the first full moon of the spring season and that Easter Sunday (the first Sunday after the Paschal Moon) is just around the corner. This year, Easter Sunday falls on the very next day after the Paschal Moon, something that hasn’t happened in centuries.
This year’s Paschal Moon is indeed quite special, and it also happens to be a Blue Moon. The last occurrence of a Blue Paschal Moon was in 1999, and we’ll have to wait until 2037 to enjoy another one.
Popular culture has defined several kinds of Blue Moons, but the one coming up March 31 is relatively rare. It’s the 2nd Blue Moon this year. That hasn’t happened since 1999 and won’t again until 2037! More on this: https://t.co/kQV1rxzIrb
Image: EarthSky FB friend Jv Noriega pic.twitter.com/vNeUA9kPSt
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) March 29, 2018
Another reason why tomorrow’s Blue Moon should not be overlooked is that it comes so shortly after the previous one. The March Blue Moon is the second of the year and, most importantly, the second to come around within three months.
The first Blue Moon of 2018 happened this January and marked a spectacular celestial event dubbed the Super Blue “Blood” Moon due to its beautiful coppery red color. The January Blue Moon was also a supermoon, and it occurred during a total lunar eclipse.
It’s fairly uncommon for two blue moons to succeed one another in such a short period of time. In fact, this hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years, shows AccuWeather.
“The last time we’ve seen two blue moons within three months was in 1999,” said AccuWeather astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel.
This quite rare celestial event — two blue moons occurring so close to each other — is not without some poetic symmetry. After all, March 2018 began with a full moon and it seems almost fitting, artistic even, that it should end the same way.
The reason why March is now boasting two full moons has to do with the fact that February only had 28 days this year. Since it takes about 29.5 days for the moon to complete its cycle (an interval known as a “synodic” month), this year the entire month of February passed in between full moons. Consequently, both January and March ended up with two full moons, something that only tends to happen every 19 years or so.
But wait, there’s more. The March Blue Moon has one more meaning that not many people may be familiar with. In the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the second full moon in March is also called the Sap Moon (or the Full Sap Moon), a name bestowed upon it by some Native American tribes to mark that “the time of year when the sap of sugar maples starts to flow.”
With all this in mind, tomorrow’s Blue Moon is shaping up to be quite a momentous event, imbued with multiple connotations and a special significance. And yet, though it will be many things, the upcoming Blue Moon will not, however, be literally blue.
“The term ‘blue moon’ actually has nothing to do with the color of the moon,” Samuhel clarified.
“Blue moons are usually the same gray and white color of a regular [full] moon,” he added.
Nevertheless, we might be treated to a delightful appearance of a red or orange moon as the celestial body comes close to the horizon, AccuWeather points out.
Sky gazers hoping to catch the March Blue Moon just as it rises are advised to turn their eyes to the east and take in the majesty of the celestial show. The upcoming Blue Moon will later be visible to the west as it’s about to set.