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What Happened To The Full Moon In February?

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What Happened To The Full Moon In February?

Whenever there’s a full Moon, things get pretty exciting at the Farmers’ Almanac office. Our staff and readers alike enjoy all of the Moon’s phases, but we get especially enthusiastic about the folklore surrounding each full Moon. But what if there was no monthly full Moon? In February 2018 that’s exactly what’s happening—we won’t have a full Moon. But to make up for it, January and March will be “double full Moon months,” meaning that during both of these months, there will be two times that the Moon reaches its full phase.

When we have two full Moons in a single month the second of these is popularly called a “Blue Moon,”although a Blue Moon can also be the third full Moon in a season.

Is A No-Moon Month Rare?

We often describe an unusual event as happening “once in a Blue Moon.” This expression was first noted back in 1821 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare — they happen on average once every 3 ½ years. But what about a month with no Moon at all? That is a bit more rare. A “No-Moon” month happens about once every 19 years. The last time February didn’t have a full Moon was in 1999 and then again in 1980.

The timing of the full Moon is related to the “Metonic Cycle,” named by the Greek astronomer, Meton, who discovered this phenomenon around 500 B.C. He noted that a given phase of the Moon usually falls on the same date at intervals of 19 years.

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Why Are We Having A Month With No Full Moon?

There doesn’t seem to be name for a month that lacks a full Moon, but the only month where this can happen is in February, the shortest month. The other 11 months must have at least one full Moon.

The reason February is a “No-Moon” month is really quite simple: our Gregorian calendar isn’t synching up with the lunar calendar, which is 29.53 days long. It usually synchs up nicely, giving us at least one full Moon each month, but with February being a short month, sometimes things don’t line up. So, of course there will be a Moon in the sky in February — and it might even appear full — it just won’t reach the moment where it’s 100% astronomically “full” until March 1 (at 7:51 pm EST) on our calendar.

As for the two months with two full Moons this year, there is no real name for when this happens either, but you may notice that these months seem a bit “crazier” than normal!

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5 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 03.21.18 at 10:07 am }

Hi Becky, we checked with astronomer Joe Rao to get the answer to your question:
“An interesting question! Actually . . . if a full moon fell on February 29th, when the Metonic Cycle was completed 19 years later it would fall on March 1st.

Probably the most celebrated case of a full moon falling on Leap Day came in 1504. Christopher Columbus was shipwrecked on Jamaica and the natives refused to provide him and his crew with food and water. But Columbus fortunately brought an almanac with him, which told him of an upcoming total eclipse of the moon which would begin right after the moon rose into view in the eastern sky.

So, a few days before the eclipse, Columbus informed the natives that if they didn’t help him and his crew, that he would darken the full moon and take away its beneficial light forever in a few days on a specially appointed night.

That night was February 29th!

Of course, once the eclipse began, the natives came running from all directions with ample food and water and begged Columbus to bring the Moon back. Columbus told the natives he would go back to his cabin to “reconsider the matter.” Once inside, he consulted his almanac and watched his hour glass. When he saw that the total phase of the eclipse was about to end, he stepped back outside and told the natives that so long as they cooperated with him and his crew, that he would restore the moon to its full brightness . . . which of course, he did!

2 Becky { 02.14.18 at 4:13 am }

I wonder how many full moons landed on February 29th during a Leap year and does that throw off the 19 year cycle.

3 david { 01.31.18 at 2:14 pm }

Maybe once every 19 years January should have 30 days so the February is a real month. ie the moon completes its journey around the earth

4 Susan Higgins { 01.05.18 at 8:25 am }

Hi Lee, actually, there have been many studies about how the full Moon affects behavior (and not the other way around); we covered it in a few articles. Take a look: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/astronomy/2011/05/16/do-full-moons-make-people-crazy/

5 Lee Lowe { 12.30.17 at 8:25 am }

I am wondering if blue moon might be due to excessive and irradical behaviors that seem to escalate during the full moon causing distress to law enforcement, psyche facilities and family members all dealing with behavioral issues.

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