A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar double take was in May 2007. New Year's Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won't come again until 2028.

Blue moons have no astronomical significance, said Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"`Blue moon' is just a name in the same sense as a `hunter's moon' or a `harvest moon,'" Laughlin said in an e-mail.

The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer's Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three.

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