Meanwhile in the Goldfields …

The storm that made our recent stay in Port Fairy memorable did extend over the great divide. When we got home the rain gauge had  22 very welcome millimetres of rain in it. The ground though was dry and the grass is not green but hey we can have a shower this week.

There were three trees down in the driveway. I’ve been busy with the chainsaw, but without this sort of excitement …

A number of issues have been playing on my mind.

Since I wrote about the blue moon, really just a few words to go with what I thought was a nice photo, I’ve been troubled by the exact definition of a blue moon. It rose on the last day of March and set on the first day of April. Therefore to my pedantic mind it also qualifies as the first full moon of April and the next one will also be blue. However the news reader said the next one wouldn’t be until November 2020, naturally I couldn’t sleep.

Further research reveals that there are two definitions of blue moon. Originally it was the third full moon in a season that had four full moons. As we all know the solar year is roughly 365 days long, there is a full moon every 29.5 days so there is room for 12.372881355932203 full moons per year. In other words a calendar reckoned by the moon will be 11 days per year adrift from the solar year. If the first full moon for any year falls before the 11th of January there will be 13 full moons that year, otherwise there will be 12. QED.

Four seasons, 12 full moons, 3 moons per season, all’s well. Thirteen full moons and one season has one too many, seeds planted late, village starves, less than ideal.

Communities in touch with the phases of the moon had names for each full moon such as Harvest Moon. If they had a smart astronomer they could call the extra one a Blue Moon and keep the calendar aligned with the true season.

So why definition number two, these days the one more commonly known, the second in a calendar month that has two full moons? It’s the result of

… an error originally made by amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett (1886–1955). He misunderstood the basis for calculating the seasonal Blue Moon and wrote that a Blue Moon was the second Full Moon in a month in an article published in Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946. This erroneous definition since spread, particularly after it was quoted in a popular radio program called StarDate in 1980 and then appeared as an answer in a 1986 version of the board game Trivial Pursuit.

So remember the name James Hugh Pruett. One day it will be the answer in a trivia quiz.

The question after that will probably be, “What is the common name for Ficus coronata?”

A pommy friend tells me that Cricket Australia is changing the team emblem, no more emu and kangaroo. They are to be replaced by something less aggressive, a botanical entity, Ficus coronata. Read all about it.


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