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Blue Moon Rising: See Two Full Moons in August
Inspired by the nearly-full moon, space station astronauts used an 800 mm lens to study the craters and mare in this picture taken on Oct. 5, 2001.
Credit: NASA

In late August, anyone with clear skies will be able to see a blue moon shining brightly above the horizon.

Of course, the moon doesn't actually appear blue in this event, it's merely the term for the second full moon that occurs in the course of a single month.

The first full moon of August 2012 graces the skies on Aug. 1; for most of the world, the second just barely squeezes in at the end of the month, with the moon becoming full at exactly 9:58 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (6:58 a.m. Pacific Standard Time), making it a blue moon.

In New Zealand and Russia's Kamchatka region, however, that second full moon will actually occur after midnight on Sept. 1, so they'll have to wait until the next full moon on Sept. 30 for their blue moon.

A blue moon appears the same in the sky as any other full moon, but the moon can appear to be colored under particular atmospheric conditions.

Forest fires and volcanic eruptions can pump smoke and ash into the atmosphere, which can make the moon appear a bluish hue to those standing on the Earth's surface. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo ejected more than 1 cubic mile (5 cubic kilometers) of material into the air and created blue-colored moons from several perspectives around the globe.

For more skywatching information, check out sister site's Night Sky page.