Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue moon to shine on New Year's Eve

(CNN) -- It happens only once in a blue moon -- and scientists say a blue moon is exactly what we'll see in the skies this New Year's Eve.

Don't expect an azure glow over our lunar satellite, however. The term "blue moon" simply refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, something that hasn't happened on a New Year's Eve for nearly 20 years, NASA says.

"December 1990 ended with a blue moon, and many New Year's Eve parties were themed by the event," said Professor Philip Hiscock of the department of folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Canada. "It was a lot of fun."

Most months have just one full moon, because the 29.5-day cycle of the moon matches up pretty well with the length of calendar months. Occasionally, there will be two full moons in a month, something that happens about every 2½ years, NASA says.

But a blue moon on December 31 is rare.

Elvis Presley crooned about it when he sang the old Rodgers and Hart song "Blue Moon," in which he stood alone without a dream in his heart or a love of his own.

He struck a more hopeful tone in another tune, singing about his love returning to his arms "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again." He also covered Bill Monroe's bluegrass classic, "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

It is possible for the moon to have a cerulean hue, NASA says, but that's sometimes caused by fine dirt circulating in the Earth's atmosphere or the dark blue tone of the sky.

A blue moon hasn't always meant the second full moon in a month. Hundreds of years ago, it simply meant "never" or "absurd," Hiscock said.

"The phrase 'blue moon' has been around a long time, well over 400 years, but during that time its meaning has shifted," he said. "I have counted six different meanings which have been carried by the term, and at least four of them are still current today. That makes discussion of the term a little complicated."

When the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883, it put so much dust in the atmosphere that the moon actually appeared blue -- an event so unusual that the term "once in a blue moon" was coined, according to NASA's National Space Science Data Center. The effect lasted for almost two years, Hiscock said.

Full moons used to have 12 names, one for each month, such as "harvest moon," NASA said. The term "blue moon" referred to the 13th full moon in a year.

The term acquired its current meaning in the 1940s, after the Farmer's Almanac of Maine offered an astronomical definition of a blue moon "so convoluted that even professional astronomers struggled to understand it," NASA wrote on its Web site.

A writer at Sky and Telescope magazine in the late 1940s tried to explain the almanac's definition by saying it referred to the second full moon in a month.

"That was not correct, but at least it could be understood," NASA wrote. "And thus the modern blue moon was born."

via

Brussels sprouts... a real treat

Staff at the Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre in Norfolk give turtles a seasonal treat of Brussels sprouts at Christmas which provide a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

However, the turtles, like humans, are prone to heavy bouts of flatulence after eating the vegetables.

Last year a turtle at a Sealife Centre triggered overflow alarms in the middle of the night after the splashes from gassy bubbles hit overflow sensors.

Now the Yarmouth turtle tank -12 feet in depth and width holding 250,000 litres of water along with George the 3ft long green turtle - has been partially emptied for the festive season.

Thousands of litres have been removed to lower the water by a six inches and keep the sensitive alarms clear.

Displays Supervisor Christine Pitcher said: ''Last time an aquariist had to dash to the centre in the middle of the night, so we're not going to take any chances.

''Sprouts are really healthy for green turtles.

''The high levels of calcium in them are great for their shells, the fibre is good for their digestion and they also contain lots of beneficial Vitamin C, sulphur and potassium.''

Senior Marine Biologist Darren Gook added: ''We like to treat him to different foods and seeing as it's Christmas we thought Brussels sprouts would be good.

''I haven't noticed too many bubbles coming from George yet but hopefully now the water levels have been adjusted flatulence won't cause problems.''

Green turtles are mainly herbivores who feed on marine grasses and algae and are found in coastal regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

They are the largest turtles in the world and can grow up to one and a half metres (five ft) in length, weigh an incredible 400 kilos (63 stone) and live for up to 80 years.

Poaching and destruction of habitat has led to a decline in numbers and the species is now endangered, with a critically endangered population in the Mediterranean.

The eight-year-old resident male at Great Yarmouth Sea Life centre measures a metre and will reach maturity for another 20 years.

via

Never a year like 09



Never a year like 09: there is a lot of truth in that for me. 09 was full of commotion. I hope 10 will be more balanced in certain ways. Not sure though...