The Art of Timing:
By early September Venus will have reappeared in the pre-dawn eastern sky and will be a 'morning star' once again. Ancient astronomers believed that Venus was two different objects and called her Hesperus when she appeared in the evening sky and Phosphorus when she was seen before dawn.
1: Neptune at opposition
1: Alpha Aurigids meteor shower. The Alpha Aurigids start in August and peak at the beginning of September but will be hard to see because of the gibbous moon.
4: Mercury at greatest Elongation East
5 Last Quarter moon
6: Venus at western stationary point (Venus goes direct)
10: Moon north of Venus
11: Moon south of Mars
12: Moon south of Jupiter
13: Dark Moon/partial Solar eclipse (Moon and Sun in Virgo) only seen from southern Africa, southern Madagascar or Antarctica
14: Moon at apogee “micromoon”
15: New Moon
15: Moon north of Mercury
18: Mercury at eastern stationary point (Mercury goes retrograde)
19: Moon north of Saturn
19: International Observe the Moon Night
21: First Quarter
22: Moon north of Pluto
23: Spring Equinox
25: Pluto at eastern stationary point (Pluto goes direct)
26: Moon north of Neptune
28: Full Moon/total Lunar eclipse only seen in Europe, Africa or the Americas (Sun in Libra, Moon in Aries)
28: Moon at perigee “supermoon”
August 2015 Skywatch
August 2: Moon at perigee and Saturn at eastern stationery point
August 7: Last Quarter Moon and Mercury north of Jupiter
August 13: Moon south of Mars
August 15: Dark moon, moon north of Venus and south of Jupiter
August 16: Venus in inferious conjunction
August 17/18: new moon
August 18: Moon at apogee
August 22: Saturn in eastern quadrature
August 23: First Quarter Moon, moon north of Pluto
August 26: Moon north of Pluto
August 27: Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun
August 30: Full Moon, moon north of Jupiter
August 31; Moon at perigee
July 2015 Skywatch
July 1 Venus south of Jupiter
July 2: Full Moon
July 2 Moon north of Pluto
July 3 Mars north of the star Mu Geminorum
July 5 Earth at aphelion
July 6 Moon at perigee
July 6 Mercury north of the star Zeta Tauri
July 6 Moon north of Neptune
July 7 Pluto at opposition
July 9 Last Quarter Moon occults Uranus (not visible from the Sunshine Coast)
July 10 Mars south of the star Mebsuta
July 12 Mercury north of the star Mu Geminorum
July 13 Moon north of the star Aldebaran
July 13 Uranus at western quadrature
July 14 Mercury south of the star Mebsuta
July 15 Moon north of the star Alhena
July 15 Moon south of Mercury
July 15 Venus south of the star Regulus
July 15 Moon south of Mars
July 16 Dark Moon
July 16 Mercury south of Mars
July 17 Mercury at perihelion
July 18 New Moon
July 19 Moon south of Jupiter
July 19 Waxing crescent Moon occults Venus
July 21 Moon at apogee
July 24 Mercury in superior conjunction
July 25 Venus at eastern stationary point
July 24 First Quarter Moon
July 26 Uranus at western stationary point
July 26 Moon north of Saturn
July 30 Moon north of Pluto
July 31 Full Moon (this is a calendar Blue Moon)
Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for
A Blue Moon is another cycle in the Moondances, but as it is so rare Blue Moons deserve their own section even if a Blue Moon is really only a Full Moon that chose the right time to happen.
The most popular understanding today of a blue moon is that it is the second full moon in a calendar month. Remember August 2012 had its first full moon at 1.30 pm on Thursday 2nd, which gave time to squeeze in a second full moon in August on the 31st at 11.59 pm (yes, you read that time right, this full moon achieved official blue moon status by only one minute).
For a blue moon to occur by this calculation the first of the full moons must appear at the beginning of one of the longer months so that the second will fall within the same month. Every century there are 41 months that contain two full moons which makes an average of two-and-a-half years between Blue Moons. No wonder the phrase once in a blue moon is used to imply an event that rarely occurs and a blue moon is now regarded as a special, magic time.
Although this way to reckon a Blue Moon is now universally accepted, up to midway through the 20th century the blue moon was decided by a seasonal and not a monthly calculation. We are now accustomed to a calendar year that runs from January 1st through to December 31st, but farmers used to count their year from one winter solstice or Yule to the next. Most years would include only twelve full moons with three full moons falling in each season of winter, spring, summer, and autumn with each full moon named for an activity appropriate to the time of year.
DJ Conway lists a modern version of these moons in her book Moon Magick as:
An older, northern hemisphere farmers’ way is to name the full moons by season rather than by month:
• After the December solstice:
o Old Moon, or Moon After Yule
o Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon
o Sap Moon, Crow Moon or Lenten Moon
• After the March equinox:
o Grass Moon, or Egg Moon
o Planting Moon, or Milk Moon
o Rose Moon, Flower Moon, or Strawberry Moon
• After the June solstice:
o Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon
o Green Corn Moon, or Grain Moon
o Fruit Moon, or Harvest Moon
• After the September equinox:
o Harvest Moon, or Hunter’s Moon
o Hunter’s Moon, Frosty Moon, or Beaver Moon
o Moon Before Yule, or Long Night Moon
This divides the seasonal year up quite nicely because there are usually three full moons in between an equinox and a solstice and vice versa. However seven times in every nineteen years, four full moons fall in a single season to mess up the system.
To keep things tidy for the Christian ecclesiastical calendar, farmers called the third of the season’s four moons a blue moon. This blue moon will only ever occur in February, May, August and November, one month before the next equinox or solstice. By this definition there was a blue moon on August 21, 2013 as it was the third full moon of four full moons between the June solstice and the September equinox of 2013.
Although the older blue moon can occur in February before the next equinox in March, the newer blue moon will never occur in the shortest month of the year. February as the shortest month can even miss out on a full moon at all. More trivia about blue moons: over the next 20 years there will be about 15 blue moons of each type, with an almost equal number of both types of blue moons occurring. No blue moon of any kind will occur in the years 2014 and 2017.
The reason why the calculations for a Blue Moon changed from seasonal to monthly was because a writer made a mistake, hard though this is to believe. James Hugh Pruett who was a journalist as well as an amateur astronomer (like me) misunderstood a 1943 question-and-answer column in Sky & Telescope which cited the 1937 Maine Farmers' Almanac. Pruett then wrote an article for Sky & Telescope in March 1946, but did not check his original source. Of course no journalist would ever make this mistake today but back last century although Pruett’s article cited the Farmers’ Almanac he misunderstood their calculations to claim that "Seven times in 19 years there were — and still are — 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon”.
Although purists declare that the modern blue moon definition is a trendy mistake, the fact that there is an older meaning does not necessarily make it the better choice. As with everything else in life, it’s your choice to decide what system works best for you.
The old farmers’ seasonal calculations for blue moons was developed to neatly tuck in the number of full moons in a season with the needs of the Church where the ecclesiastical vernal equinox always falls on March 21, regardless of where the Sun is in the sky on that date. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter and the last full moon of winter must be the Lenten Moon. The first full Moon of Spring is always the Easter or Paschal Moon and must fall in the week before Easter. Back in the days when farmers needed to propitiate the church but also needed to differentiate when a season contained four Full Moons because this could affect their planting and harvesting, they invented the term blue moon for the third full moon in a season.
Is this seasonal method really any better than looking at a calendar to see if two Full Moons will fall within a month? Charting the third Full Moon in a four Full Moon season isn't everyone's idea of time well spent, even though it is an interesting variation on our modern blue moon celebrations and with ever-increasing popularity for Pruett’s calendar-month misinterpretation, we are not likely to discard this practice overnight.
Rather than waste time arguing on which blue moon is best, we could just celebrate twice. If we celebrate both the second full moon in a calendar month and the third full moon in a season of four full moons, then we have doubled the number of blue moons we can celebrate and created fifteen more excuses to feast with friends over the next twenty years.
So let’s all raise a glass to toast Pruett and his wonderful mistake, every time we celebrate our extra Blue Moons.
Blue Moons in Australia 2015 - 2021
July 31, 2015 Calendar
May 22, 2016 Seasonal
March 31, 2018 Calendar
May 19, 2019 Seasonal
November 30, 2020 Calendar
August 23, 2021 Seasonal