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Once in a blue moon isn't true

February is the only month that can not have a full moon because it only has 28 days.
February is the only month that can not have a full moon because it only has 28 days. NASA

AN Interesting piece of information came across my desk this week, a little note from a local reader and fellow star gazer.

The note was penned on a photocopied excerpt from The Gympie Times that said February 1865 was the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon, the astro-enthusiastic reader had simply written February 2010 didn’t either.

This got me to thinking, if February 2010 was the only other recorded month in history not have a full moon then the occurrence must be very rare, so I did some digging on the topic.

Local astronomer Owen Bennedick based at the Wappa Falls Observatory in Yandina said he thought it wouldn’t be all that uncommon to have a month in which there was no full moon; it is all based on when the earth turns and where the sun and moon are aligned.

And astronomy lecturer, writer and presenter David Reneke agrees that not having a full moon in the month of February is not that rare an occurrence.

Mr Reneke said there was, in fact, a full moon in February, 1865.

“This is not to say, however, that it is impossible for February to miss the full phase,” he said.

He said the full moon occurred in 1865 on February 10 but February 1866 did not have one. “It happens about four to six times a century so it’s not unique to February 1866.

“February is the only month that can not have a full moon because the month only has 28 days.

“The moon phases cycle every 29.5 days. February, with 28 days (and 29 on a leap year), does miss a phase periodically. As recently as 1999, there was no full moon during February. In fact 1866, 1885, 1915, 1934, 1961 did not have a full phase. In fact in the past century there have only been four occurrences of a February not having a full moon, the last being in 1999.”

This information is on a world scale, but when astronomers work out the phases of the full moon they work in Greenwich Mean Time and because Australia’s time zone is ahead of England our full moons fall about 10 hours after most calculations.

In the month of February 2010, using Australian time zones, there was also no Full Moon.

This coming century in 2018, 2037, 2067, and 2094 February will also be without a full moon.

“The Blue Moon months (when there is more than one full moon in a month) and the no full moon months are rare occurrences that both entranced and frightened superstitious peoples of the past.”

Gympie Times


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