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Rare Blue Moon to Shine in Tuesday Night's Sky

This particular moon goes by many names
Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013

The full moon of August is usually called the Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. (Credit: Starry Night Software)

This month's full moon, which rises on Tuesday, Aug. 20, is not just a Blue Moon - it's also the Full Sturgeon Moon, the Full Red Moon, the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.

Tonight's full moon qualifies as a Blue Moon because it's the third full moon in a season with four (most seasons have only three). Historically, there have been two different definitions of a Blue Moon.

RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Epic Photos of Astronauts on the Moon
Astronaut on MoonTechnically, a Blue Moon is the third full moon in a four-full-moon season. However, a 1946 article in "Sky & Telescope" magazine mistakenly defined it as the second full moon in a single month (since most months have only one full moon), and the definition stuck. Because August will have just this one full moon, it wouldn't meet the mistaken, though commonly used, definition, though it does qualify as a technical Blue Moon. [10 Surprising Moon Facts]

The moon's extra names come from traditional monikers for the full moon of a given month. A few hundred years ago, Native American tribes in what's now the northeastern United States kept track of seasons by ascribing particular names to each full moon. Later, European settlers added their own names for the full moons to the lexicon.

The annual August full moon has come to be known as the Full Sturgeon Moon, because the large fish called sturgeon can most easily be caught at this time of year. The name came from tribes who caught this fish in bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.

Another name for this month's full moon is the Full Red Moon, because the weather and atmospheric conditions during this season can often make the moon look reddish when it rises through a haze.

And finally, because crops grow tall at this time of year, this month's moon is sometimes called the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.

Full moons occur every 29.5 days on average, when the moon is directly opposite the sun from the perspective of Earth. This causes its whole disk to be fully illuminated as a large, bright circle. Usually, when the moon is full, it passes either above or below Earth's shadow, but sometimes, when it is perfectly aligned, it travels right through the shadow, causing a lunar eclipse, when its disk is dark.

Blue Moons don't happen too often, which is why the phrase "once in a Blue Moon," has sprung up to mean only very rarely. After Tuesday's event, the next Blue Moon isn't set to occur until 2015.

Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Astronaut on Moon


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once in a blue moon

August 20 2013 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I understood a Blue Moon meant that there were two Full Moons in one Month. I never heard that it had anything to do with the seasons, even though it would still work out to two full moons in the same month, if there are four full moons in three months.

August 20 2013 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Going to watch to night.

August 20 2013 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What many people are missing here is the history. This is not a lesson on what your opinion about the name of the moon should/should not be. It is about the history as it relates to the moon. The younger generation probably knows very little, if anything, about the astronomical references. Very few people of any age will take the time to go outside and view the moon. I appreciated the Native American information. I now can add that to my understanding and teach others, too. In our busy life, too many people cannot be bothered by something that relates to all of our common history. SHINE ON, BEAUTIFUL MOON.

August 20 2013 at 4:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to muffin's comment
Luci Tomlin

What is so fascinating about Astrology is the vastness of it! Never boring and always inspiring! Mt Mitchell in North Carolina is one of the most beautiful vantage point in the world other than Hawaii! When out of the light pollution, you can almost touch the stars! The comets look like they are headed for your shirt pocket and will almost cause you to duck! Awesome! Anyone who sees the magnificent and wonder of our universe would have to see that THIS was not a result of evolution! It was created by an exceptional Artist who shows through his meticulous design the love and care he takes in his creations! It humbles me to think that WE were designed by the same CREATOR, God Almighty!

August 20 2013 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Blue Moon of Kentucky Keep On Shining....

August 20 2013 at 4:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When pigs fly.

August 20 2013 at 3:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like it!

August 20 2013 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In my 82 years,I always thought a Blue Moon,was the second full moon of any given month ,which doesn't happen very often .

August 20 2013 at 3:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Hemchand Tularam

Hare Krishna

August 20 2013 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder how many people are going to be demanding things tonight--" hONEY REMEMBER WHEN YOU SAID YOU WOULD AHEM ONLY IF THERE WAS A BLUE MOON. WELL TONIGHT IT'S HERE ." LOL

August 20 2013 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to exnavy2003's comment
Luci Tomlin

UH OH! Does that mean the last gentleman I told I would marry him in a "blue moon" be calling? I could swear I said "not now"! But.....

August 20 2013 at 5:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
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