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Stargazing: Blue Moon shines over southwest Iowa on Saturday

Stargazing: Blue Moon shines over southwest Iowa on Saturday

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The full moon on Saturday is the second one occurring in October. Folklore refers to this phenomenon as a “blue moon”, though it will have no bluish coloration whatsoever and has no scientific value at all.

Something else to mention about this particular moon is that it will be at that position in its orbit known as apogee and will be shining on us from 252,522 miles away, its furthest point from Earth for the rest of 2020.

Getting back to the “blue moon,” this term has been around for over 400 years and just like the idea that the moon was made of green cheese is just one of those absurdities that come around every now and then.

There were times, however, when volcanic debris carried high into the atmosphere filtered the moon’s light to the point it did indeed have a pale bluish tinge for over two years. Such was the case in 1883 when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa blew its lid.

This year, however, any discoloration of the moon will be from the tremendous amount of smoke being carried into our upper atmospheric layers from the grass and forest fires in Colorado and along the west coast.

Other times and for other reasons there were reports of weird colors coming from the moon, one in 1927 when the country of India had an extra-long dry spell and winds blew the dust into the air.

According to folklorist Philip Hiscock, because blue moons, although rare, did happen from time to time, he coined the phrase “once in a blue moon” back in the mid-19th century. That phrase is still in use today.

Lunar colorations are also part of some songs such as “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”, or perhaps readers remember both Elvis Presley’s or Bill Monroe’s version of “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”.

Hiscock also wrote about a Blue Moon but this one consisted of a “slinky blue liquid in a cocktail glass, one that requires curaçao, gin and perhaps a twist of lemon.” A few of those and you might be seeing several different colors of the moon, not just blue.

As I mentioned in a column back in September, this month’s blue moon coincides with Halloween and if the skies remain clear the trick-or-treaters scurrying around town will have its bright light shining on them.

According to AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Lada, we won’t be able to catch another blue moon on Halloween night until 2039. With that in mind, best to mark your calendars now.

On another subject dealing with the moon, I found it interesting that NASA has issued another request to its 14 Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) partners to bid on flying a suite of payloads to the moon.

The request asks partners to fly 10 NASA science investigations and technology demonstrations to a non-polar region of the moon in 2023.

Through the CLPS initiative, NASA taps its commercial partners to quickly land scientific instruments and technology demonstrations on the Moon. The initiative is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program.

It is hoped that the science and technology payloads will help lay the foundation for human missions to the lunar surface. A provider will be selected by the end of the year, making it the sixth surface task award.

On another note, skies get darker earlier next Sunday with the end of Daylight Savings Time.

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