The 2 Full Moons of August

The 2 Full Moons of August

August 2012  :  Francine Jackson

This month's Full Moon is very early, happening late the night of August 1st, one of our cross quarter days. The August Full Moon has often been called the Full Sturgeon Moon by tribes around the Great Lakes because these fish were at their most plentiful at this time of year. Also, a lot of people referred to it as the Red moon, because of the Full Moon's ruddy color as it rises through the hazy atmosphere of this hottest time of year. However, the red color could also refer to the embarrassment bestowed upon astronomer John Herschel beginning August 25, 1835.

Without the immediate news access we have today, the 19th century depended on local newspapers for their up-to-the-minute information. One of the penny newspapers in New York City, The Sun, learning that Herschel was at the Cape of Good Hope studying Halley's Comet, created a telescope that allowed Herschel to observe surface features on the Moon, such as rivers, trees, beaches. And, taking advantage of the lunar terrain were huge man-sized beavers, unicorns, and man-bats. According to "reporter" Dr. Andrew Grant, he had been traveling with Herschel, and saw through this new telescope all that he had described firsthand. After six of these articles, the author declared that the telescope had been destroyed by the Sun, but in the meantime, the paper's circulation skyrocketed.

Herschel was unaware of this new research he was alleged to be doing, but, on learning that he had been the victim of such a hoax, was amused, until his work was disrupted by the public, who, believing this to have been true, constantly asked him to explain his work concerning the Moon.

Blue Moon

Because our August full Moon occurs so early in the month, we have a second one literally a couple hours before the end, at 9:57 P.M. EDT the 31st. Traditionally this second one is called a Blue Moon, allegedly because of the bluish tinge it has, which I, and no one else I know, has ever noted. However, it does give us the adage of incidents happening "once in a Blue Moon," although the one afterwards is only about three years away. The next one will be in July, 2015, not a very long time to wait at all.