This Halloween will be ‘once in a blue moon’

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Kathryn O’Connor
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A blue moon, a rare astrological occurrence, will be visible in the sky this Halloween. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

This Halloween, a rare blue moon will be visible in the sky.

The blue moon is an additional full moon that appears in the sky during a selected part of the year. This can occur in one of two ways: a blue moon could appear as either the third or fourth full moon in a season, or it could appear as the second full moon taking place in the same month of the calendar year – which is October, in this case.

If a month has 31 days, a full moon can repeat towards the end of the month on the 30th or the 31st. With these circumstances in place, the situation can present itself every few years.

Vincent Woolf, a professor in the UNO Department of Physics who teaches astronomy and physics courses while participating in additional astronomical research, recently spoke out about this year’s blue moon occurrence.

“There’s nothing special astronomically about a blue moon,” Woolf said. “The cycle of moon phases doesn’t change in any way. The moon isn’t bigger or brighter. It certainly doesn’t appear blue either. It’s just a rare occurrence because of how humans have set up our calendar.”

Due to the rarity of blue moons, the expression “once in a blue moon” was created, which signals the occurrence of an event that is “highly unusual.”

Famed playwright William Shakespeare was actually the first to coin the phrase “blue moon,” when he incorporated it into his play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” 400 years ago. In the context of the play, Shakespeare wrote the term to mean “rare” or “absurd.”

Individuals who will have access to a clear nighttime sky revealing the full moon on Halloween will be able to witness the blue moon. However, it will not look different from other full moons that emerge throughout the year.

Furthermore, this blue moon isn’t the only noteworthy astronomical event that will occur in October 2020.

On October 13, Mars will be “in opposition.” This means that both Mars and the sun will be on directly opposite sides of Earth, and therefore, it will appear dramatically brighter than it usually does. Mars only reaches opposition with Earth about every two years.

Additionally, this year, the Orionid meteor shower will be active from October 2 through November 7. It is expected to reach its peak on the morning of October 21.

The Orionid meteor shower is the second meteor shower created by Comet Halley. The other meteor shower created by debris left by Comet Halley is the Eta Aquarids, which arrives in May.

To enjoy all of these astronomical occurrences, your best bet is to find a location that is dark and far away from light pollution, ideally outside of the city.

For the most outstanding views, NASA recommends lying flat on your back with your feet facing southeast, looking at as much of the sky as possible.

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