There’s going to be a blue moon on Friday. The moon will do nothing new or exciting, but your Facebook feed will drown in moon drama anyway. Anything’s better than Minion memes, I suppose.
Aside from the incredible sight we witnessed earlier this month as New Horizons took our first clear, high-resolution photos of Pluto and its moons, it’s been a painful twelve months for mainstream coverage of things beyond our atmosphere.
First, we’ve been bombarded with breathless coverage of four (four!) supermoons in the past year. A supermoon is a full moon that occurs during the moon’s closest approach to the Earth on its orbit—known as a perigee—during which the moon appears just a tiny bit bigger and brighter in the night sky. It’s worth mentioning that these happen several times every year, and it’s nothing new. Not only that, but the embiggening and embrightening during a supermoon is only noticed by astronomers and people with stellar photography skills.
The lunar hype reached fever pitch last summer, as we saw three supermoons in a row (July, August, and September), complete with Vox publishing an explainer advising people how to see the moon. In the year since 2014’s supermoonmania, we’ve seen a solar eclipse (last October), yet another supermoon (March), and a lunar eclipse (April), but it’s likely that none of those events will reach the level of hype about to be cranked out of newsrooms across the country so much as this Friday’s blue moon.
“Once in a blue moon,” they’ll remind you, “is a term that means something that rarely happens,” telling you this as if you haven’t sarcastically used it in an argument before. There are two definitions for a blue moon—one is that a blue moon is the fourth full moon to occur in a season, while the most commonly used definition is that a blue moon is the second full moon in a month.
Our last full moon was on July 1, and our next full moon—the blue moon—is this Friday, the last day of the month. Blue moons happen every couple of years, and the next blue moon is due on January 31, 2018. Another blue moon happens two months after that, so brace yourselves now for that crush of critical explainers on how to crane your neck back to look up at the sky.
The moon won’t turn blue, or appear any larger or brighter than normal, and to be honest, it’ll probably be cloudy on Friday and you won’t see the moon anyway, because that’s usually how it goes when you want to look at something in space. Take solace in the fact that you’ll see see plenty of pictures of it on Facebook on Saturday morning.