Blue moon and New Year's Eve coincide tonight

Thursday, December 31, 2009 | 1:50 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Partly cloudy skies might part enough this New Year's Eve to show off a "blue moon," the first on New Year's Eve since 1990.

But what's a blue moon?

"I have no idea," said Ashley Morgan, a Stephens College student working Thursday at Britches clothing store.

It turns out, not many people do.

"It's beer, and I drink a lot of it," Greg Elbel, a barber at Tiger Barber Shop, said, referring to the brand.

Over at the Which Wich sandwich shop, Ronald Harvey said it's a song: "Blue moon," he sang. "(You) saw me standing alone ..."

"It's blue," his 5-year-old daughter, Zoe, said.

Father and daughter, who were in town to perform in First Night Columbia, decided they wanted to know what a blue moon is, so Harvey consulted Google via his phone. He explained it to his daughter, who was excited by the prospect of seeing it.

Maura Mudd, who was standing on Ninth Street during a break, knew the answer on the spot. "It generally refers to the second full moon in a given month," said Mudd, a telefundraiser for Integral Resources Inc.

Such blue moons occur every two years and seven months. The next one to fall on a New Year's Eve will be in 2028. 

However, the U.S. Naval Observatory says this understanding of blue moons stems from a mistake published  in the 1940s and then widely circulated. According to traditional sky lore, the USNO says, the full moon appearing this New Year's Eve is a "cold moon" or a "moon after yule."

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