I just found out that today is a blue moon day. According to an article in Sky and Telescope magazine, What's a Blue Moon?, by by Roger W. Sinnott, Donald W. Olson, and Richard Tresch Fienberg, the popular definition of a blue moon as a full moon that occurs twice in one month is inaccurate, as it originally refers to a third full moon in a season of four. However, as the article points out, the term "blue moon" as used to refer to two full moons in a month has been in use for over two decades. Far from causing any harm, it actually encourages interest in astronomy.
The year 2009 has been a hard one for a lot of people, my family included. Sometimes I've forgotten the blessings when the difficulties pressed down upon my spirits. It's been helpful to do the "Seven Kicks" Sunday check-in at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast as an exercise in gratitude. In brief, here are seven astronomy-based items for which I am glad:
1. A newly discovered exoplanet is made mostly of boiling water. As a friend said, "Now, we need to figure out how to send the Earth's biggest teabag to that planet."
2. At this time, I can see all of Carl Sagan's Cosmos online.
3. There are only 4 1/2 years to go before New Horizons reaches Pluto.
4. I'm glad for every time Jupiter's gravitational pull deflects an asteroid or comet from heading toward Earth a la Deep Impact.
5. I appreciate seeing the Orion constellation in the sky of the northern hemisphere during the winter season. (One of the reasons I want to visit the southern hemisphere someday is to be able to see a completely different array of constellations.)
6. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still functioning, though it appears that Spirit is still stuck.
7. This year, I got to see Jupiter through a telescope for the first time. The telescope wasn't very strong, but I did see the bands!