Look Up! Mars and a Blue Moon in the weekend sky

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Once the clouds thin out Saturday, there will be some cool things to look for in the night sky over the weekend: Mars will be as bright as it's been in the past two years, and a Full Moon on Saturday will be a Blue Moon.

Saturday's Full Moon occurs at 4:15 PM CDT; it's known as the Full Flower Moon, the Full Corn Planting Moon, and the Milk Moon.

No, the Moon will not be blue in color, but it is a rare third of four full moons in a season.  There are usually only three full moons in a season, but about every 2-3 years we get four.  The third one gets that "blue" designation.  Another "blue moon" concept is the second full moon in a calendar month; that won't happen again until January 31, 2018.

Can the Moon ever be blue?  Yes, it can, but the coloring is a function of dust particles in the atmosphere instead of the Moon itself.  Forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions can cause red light to "scatter" making the moon look blue.  The eruptions of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991 caused blue-shaded moons.

So what about Mars?

From NASA: "The night sky in late May will have a very special feature this year. That’s because Mars will shine bigger and brighter than any other time in the past two years as the Red Planet approaches the closest point in its orbit to Earth. No fancy telescopes are needed. You’ll be able to spot the Red Planet with the naked eye.

Mars and Earth travel at different speeds in their elliptical orbits around the sun. While they line up every 26 months, this will be Mars’ closest orbit to Earth since 2005!

The Hubble Space Telescope will take advantage of this great viewing opportunity and turn its gaze toward Mars to capture a new, detailed snapshot of the Red Planet."

If you snap any photos of Mars, the Blue Moon, or any other cool feature in the sky, share it with us!  Send photos to photos@whnt.com or connect with me on social media to share the pics!

-Jason
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