Skywatchers are in for a treat this month, as August will showcase not one but two dazzling supermoons. The first supermoon will reach its peak on Tuesday at 2:32 p.m. ET, offering lunar enthusiasts in Europe, the United Kingdom, Africa, and the Middle East a chance to witness the moon in all its glory at a distance of approximately 222,158 miles (357,530 kilometers) from Earth. For viewers in the United States, the full moon will be visible during the evening of August 1. Supermoons are known to appear brighter and larger due to their proximity, though the difference might not always be easily discernible to the naked eye.
Named the “sturgeon moon,” this week’s full moon coincides with the historical time when indigenous communities in the Great Lakes region found it easier to catch the large freshwater fish. Observers in the US can catch a glimpse of the sturgeon supermoon after sunset, looking toward the southeast.
The celestial spectacle doesn’t end there. On August 30, a full moon, known as a super blue moon, will appear at its closest point to Earth this year—about 222,043 miles (357,344 kilometers) away. A blue moon is a term used to describe a second full moon occurring within the same calendar month, a relatively rare event that typically happens only once every two and a half years.
The super blue moon on August 30 will peak at 9:36 p.m. ET, and weather permitting, it will be visible again on August 31. Despite its name, the moon won’t actually appear blue; the term originated from an old expression referring to something that rarely or never happens.
Supermoons occur when the moon is near its closest point to Earth, known as its perigee, while also being in the full moon phase. These lunar events are not particularly rare, occurring three or four times a year. However, they can cause higher tides in Earth’s oceans due to the moon’s closer proximity.
Blue moons, on the other hand, are rarer and commonly refer to two full moons occurring within the same calendar month. Not all blue moons are supermoons, making the August 30 full moon even more exceptional. The next instance of two supermoons occurring in the same month is not expected until January 2037.
While supermoons and blue moons are visually captivating, they do not significantly alter the moon’s appearance to the naked eye. Nevertheless, they offer a thrilling experience for those interested in observing celestial phenomena.