Friday, July 31, 2015

Tonight's Blue Moon

Tonight offers us the second of this month's full moons. Today we'd call it a "blue" moon but around 500 years ago the best research tells us it was a "belewe" one.  Of course it was possible in 1515 to have a moon - full or not - actually colored "bleu," "blewe," or even "blao" but the probability of that happening was exceedingly rare. On the other hand, "belewe" moons or "betrayer" moons happened infrequently but often enough to be of concern if you didn't want to fast an extra thirty or so days during Lent. Yes, it's complicated. When you have a church festival based on the Spring lunar cycle having two fulls moons in the same month it does present issues. Only one of those moons could be the Lenten moon so the early moon was labelled a "belewe" or traitorous moon in the sense that it seriously disrupted the tradition of "forty days before Easter."

Thankfully, the explanation for a moon that appears blue in color is much simpler. When particulate matter in the atmosphere - especially from forest fires and volcanoes - is uniform and of the right size, light passing through it is refracted or bent and appears blue. It's a rare event but at least you don't have to wait for a full moon as blue moons can occur in any phase.

Lunar eclipse over an ocean horizon

I have watched the Moon - full and otherwise - all of my life and in a variety of settings but have yet to see one blue in color. No disappointment here; our closest celestial neighbor never fails to entertain me. That's especially true when it is full and rising or setting over the "lost horizon" of a desert or ocean, particularly the ocean. Standing on the beach at twilight you hear water dancing with sand. On the horizon the Moon's growing arc rises out of the netherworld of sea and air. Illuminated by the Sun's fire at your back, the Moon moves higher into the quintessence of space and paints a moving image on the sea. It is the classic five elements, a timeless simplicity, a remarkable unity.

Go find a beach. Be there tonight!


Photo:, September 25, 2014 entry.

Text:, Blue Moon

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