Hence the phrase - once in a blue moon

Loughborough Echo - - MIKE LOCKLEY -

I WASN’T too con­cerned by the re­cent tabloid head­line: “Me­teor splits into seven and lands in North­ern Eng­land.”

I have been fas­ci­nated by the stars from a very early age.

I can re­mem­ber Dad show­ing me The Plough. It seemed a nice pub, but I had to wait in the Cortina with a bag of cheese and onion and bot­tle of Vimto.

I devour any­thing of an astro­nom­i­cal bent. News of an as­ter­oid trav­el­ling within 20,000 miles of Earth’s at­mos­phere failed to ruf­fle Yours Truly, even though that’s closer than my wife gets to the kerb when park­ing.

I may even travel to the Orkneys to wit­ness the next so­lar eclipse, a ce­les­tial event that takes place on Au­gust 11, 2018. That’s de­spite warn­ings that the “hap­pen­ing”, which will at­tract Druids, may be some­thing of a non­event – un­less you pur­chase a pair of these silly eclipse glasses.

The next big one – a “deep eclipse” – will not be un­til Au­gust 2026. Even then, it may only be a to­tal blackout in Ice­land – a spec­ta­cle that will be wasted on the coun­try’s in­hab­i­tants. They’re in dark­ness for most of the year, any­way. How are they go­ing to tell the dif­fer­ence?

The long wait un­der­lines the sig­nif­i­cance of the last to­tal eclipse in March 2016, an event watched by my wife while wear­ing weld­ing gog­gles.

Per­haps I ex­pect too much from these astro­nom­i­cal events, but I leave them dis­ap­pointed.

I was, de­cid­edly un­der­whelmed by the ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated ce­les­tial mile­stone that was a “blue moon”. Not since the much trum­peted so­lar eclipse has there been such a damp squib.

It took place on March 31 and, frankly, the moon looked pretty much the same as it al­ways had.

Those who charted the heav­ens played fast and loose with the Trade De­scrip­tions Act.

You prob­a­bly missed it. Frankly, stag­ing some­thing like that at night is a bit of an own goal.

If you did, an­other one will come along next May. I’m not hold­ing my breath.

I, like every­one else in our par­ish, ex­pected the thing to be blue. It was not and was never sup­posed to be.

The wasted night pro­vided Yours Truly with only one sur­prise.

A neigh­bour pointed his binoc­u­lars at the inky black­ness, turned to me and whis­pered: “The frosted glass in your bath­room doesn’t work.”

The lu­nar let-down didn’t stop a large num­ber of dis­ap­pointed stargaz­ers point­ing their cam­eras to the heav­ens and an­nounc­ing: “Blow it, I’m go­ing to send a photo to the lo­cal pa­per, any way.”

The re­sult was a shed-load of blurry im­ages pinged proudly to our lo­cal weekly’s in­box. Thirty-seven were sent from our par­ish alone.

Some joker sent an im­age of his bare-back­side.

The moon gallery was dubbed “amaz­ing” by our lo­cal rag, a su­perla­tive that seems fit­ting when used along­side de­tailed im­ages of Pluto’s pit­ted sur­face, but silly when de­scrib­ing shaky shots of a sil­ver ball over Shrop­shire.

It may be down to the full moon, but peo­ple have snapped it as if it’s some­thing new and un­ex­plained.

I now ea­gerly await an email an­nounc­ing: “I was walk­ing through coun­try lanes this af­ter­noon, looked up and there was this big, orange glow­ing thing in the sky. Did any­one else spot it?”

None­the­less, the ac­com­pa­ny­ing story an­nounced: “Our read­ers took some in­cred­i­ble shots, in­clud­ing the moon peek­ing from be­hind clouds, and some even looked like the ‘blue’ was a re­al­ity.” Yes, Pho­to­shop’s a won­drous thing. On­line en­cy­clo­pe­dia Wikipedia ex­plains a blue moon as: “An ad­di­tional full moon that ap­pears in a sub­di­vi­sion of a year – either the third of four full moons in a sea­son, or a sec­ond full moon in a month of the com­mon cal­en­dar.

“The phrase has noth­ing to do with the ac­tual colour of the moon, although a lit­eral blue moon may oc­cur in cer­tain at­mo­spheric con­di­tions, e.g. if vol­canic erup­tions or fires leave par­ti­cles in the at­mos­phere of just the right size to pref­er­en­tially scat­ter red light.”

I’m thank­ful for the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ex­pla­na­tion of what a blue moon is.

It’s a very rare phe­nom­e­non. Hence the phrase, “once in a blue moon”.

What it isn’t is blue. That’s a ti­tle bent into shape from the Mid­dle English word “belewe”, mean­ing “to be­tray”. A be­trayer moon is one that should not be present.

If I’d both­ered to look that up on Wikipedia be­fore the moon gath­er­ing, I wouldn’t have joined the throng who col­lec­tively gasped: “My God, it’s so big and sil­ver and cov­ered in craters.”

They may not be much of a spec­ta­cle, but blue moons are a por­tent of ter­ri­ble times ahead, as­trologers be­lieve.

On her web­site, as­tro­log­i­cal re­searcher Lynne Koiner help­fully ex­plains the mas­sive im­pact of blue moons: “At first, when friends would in­quire about the Blue Moon, I would ca­su­ally state that it was noth­ing more than two Full Moons in one month… PE­RIOD (her caps).

“In May of 1988, I wrote that I was try­ing to sup­press ‘homi­ci­dal ten­den­cies’. Never again did I say that there was noth­ing to a Blue Moon pe­riod. So, with any Moon pe­riod, know that you are not crazy – it is the Lu­nar Phe­nom­ena.”

Pe­riod? That may have more to do with the homi­ci­dal ten­den­cies, Lynne. I know. Last month my wife threw a can of baked beans at my head while weep­ing un­con­trol­lably.

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