Given its date on the calendar — Oct. 31 — it could be a Jack-O-Lantern moon.

“It’s on Halloween,” said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the US. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. “We ought to have a name for that.”

At any rate, it will be the second full moon of October, with the first, the Harvest Moon, rising on Oct. 1.

That, depending on the now commonly accepted definition, makes the Halloween full moon a blue moon — something rare, something that comes only once in a while. Dip-a-dip-dip and dang-a-dang-dang.

Two full moons will give people two chances to go outside and take a good look at our closest, largest, and easiest-to-see nighttime object.

“You don’t need a telescope or even binoculars,” said Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope Magazine. “Just go outside and look up.”

Although, said Monty Robson, director of the John. J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, getting a close-up look on the moon can be enthralling.

“You don’t get the same feeling as you do looking through a good telescope,” Robson said.

The Moon is the object that makes Earth what it is today. Its gravity creates our tides and its elliptical orbit means those tides change. When it’s closest, at perigee, the tides are highest. When it’s farthest away, at apogee, the tides stay docile.

The New Moon, on Oct. 16 — which we can’t see — will be the closest new moon of the year. The Blue Moon on Halloween will be at apogee — a less-than-super, but still haunted ghostly galleon.

Bill Cloutier, one of the leaders of the McCarthy Observatory and an avid student of the moon’s geography, said that by learning about the moon, we learn about Earth’s earliest years. Then, like the moon, it was bombarded and cratered by collisions.

“All those features on the moon caused by impacts were happening on Earth,” Cloutier said. Oceans and tectonic plate shifts may have erased most of them, but geologists have discovered about 100 craters on Earth’s surface, he said.

In fact, most astronomers now think one of those collisions created the moon about 4.5 billion years ago. The interloper was a Mars-like planet, Theia, that smashed into Earth, creating a ring of debris that coalesced into the moon.

It’s the only real moon that circles one of the four rocky planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. (Mars has two small asteroids that circle it, but no one has written “Blue Moon of Mars, Keep on Shining…’’ about them.)

And, relative to the size of Earth — our moon’s diameter is about one-quarter of our planet — it’s the largest in our solar system. It’s also the only place humans have walked upon, other than our own terra firma.

The last Apollo mission, Apollo 17, was in 1972. NASA has now announced it wants to send astronauts back there by 2024.

Chester, of the US Naval Observatory, said that may be optimistic. But he said it would make sense to build a permanent station there, as a first step to exploring Mars, in part because it’s so close by.

“It takes us three days to get to the moon,” Chester said. “It takes five or six months, at least, to get to Mars. Going to the moon, the supply line will be much easier.”

The phrase dates back to an anti-clerical pamphlet written in 1528 by two Englishmen, William Roy and Jeremy Barlowe. They meant to mean something far-fetched and ridiculous.

But eventually, the phrase took on its present meaning — something that doesn’t happen very often.

The Old Maine Farmer’s Almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons — a seasonal blue moon.

But a 1946 article in Sky & Telescope Magazine confused things by saying that if a month has two full moons, the second could be called a blue moon — a calendar blue moon.

Robert Miller has been working as a reporter in western Connecticut since 1978. He has covered the environment for about half that time. In 2014, he retired from day-to-day reporting, but has continued to write a weekly column on the environment for The News-Times in Danbury. He’s a birder and a gardener and a bookworm who lives in the exurbs – the rural suburbs. He thinks the world we live in — even his tiny corner — is an endlessly fascinating place and he has been very lucky to write about it.


Moon, Jupiter, Saturn

World news – US – Robert Miller: Once in a blue moon is happening in October

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