Hence the phrase - once in a blue moon
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.