The Moon, the Calendar, the Internet

Richard

Saturday, May 30th, 2009 marks the 1st Quarter Moon. Not a big deal, unless you notice that this is the 2nd 1st Quarter Moon in May (the first being back on May 1st). Nobody really pays attention to a 2nd 1st quarter moon in a month, but everybody pays attention to a 2nd Full Moon in the same month–a ‘Blue Moon.’

The lunar phases cycle is 29 1/2 days long. Since most months are 30 or 31 days long (Quick: How many months have only 28 days?), we see the lunar phases wander across the calendar, and once or twice a year we will have  2 occurrences of the same phase in the same month.

Ironically, this week I received an email from a friend containing a bunch of ‘interesting facts’ about this or that–most of which are totally un-interesting. Several people send me these types of emails that seem to circulate the internet every few years because I tend to research such trivia and usually debunk a lot of the material.

In this particular email appeared the following statement: “February 1865 is the only month in recorded history to not have a full moon.”

What??!! Paaa-lease! First of all, February, 1865 did have a full moon (on the 9th). I don’t know where/why/how 1865 got attached to this statement.

However, it is possible for February to not have a full moon; and this isn’t even a rare event. Remember that 29.5 day cycle? If we have a full moon on January 1st or 2nd, we will have another full moon at the end of January, and not see a full moon again until March, and then have 2 full moon’s in March as well. The last time this happened was 1999.

There was a full moon on January 2nd (Mountain time zone), January 31st, March 2nd and March 31st. Therefore, there was no full moon in February, 1999. A similar event happened in 1980, and it will happen again in 2018. Now, time zones and calculation rounding throws in a few oddities (like a blue moon happening in Utah, but not in Germany), but in general every 19 years we will have no full moon in February.

Oh, by the way, we will have a blue moon in 2009. The 2nd full moon in December occurs on December 31st, around noon, MST.

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