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Science

Rare blue “supermoon” set to brighten the night sky on Aug. 30

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supermoon comparison
An image of the moon taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is shown in two halves to illustrate the difference in the apparent size and brightness of the moon during a supermoon. The left half shows the apparent size of a supermoon (full moon at perigee), while the right half shows the apparent size and brightness of a micromoon (full moon at apogee). Credits: NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

On the night of Aug. 30, skygazers are set to witness an incredibly rare blue “supermoon”, touted as the “biggest and brightest moon” of the year. According to predictions by InTheSky.org, viewers can expect the supermoon to rise at 7:10 p.m. ET and set by 6:46 a.m. ET on Aug. 31.

While observers might see the moon appearing only slightly larger than usual, about 7%, Space.com notes another celestial treat awaits them: Saturn. The gas giant will be shining especially bright since it will be directly opposite the sun from our vantage point on Earth. For those in the U.S., Saturn will be visible in the Aquarius constellation, located just above and to the right of the moon. Alternatively, viewers in the Southern Hemisphere will see Saturn positioned right below the moon.

Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist, highlighted that “warm summer nights are the ideal time to watch the full moon rise in the eastern sky within minutes of sunset.”

Understanding Supermoons and Blue Moons

According to NASA, a “supermoon” is a term that describes a full moon that coincides with its closest approach to Earth, known as perigee. Due to this proximity, the moon appears larger and more luminous in the sky.

On the other hand, a “blue moon” refers to the occurrence of two full moons within one calendar month. Given the Moon’s cycle of 29.5 days, occasionally, this cycle’s duration results in two full moons in a month, particularly if the first one happens on the 1st or 2nd. This phenomenon takes place roughly every two to three years

The occurrence of a blue moon and a supermoon simultaneously is uncommon. While supermoons occur three to four times annually, only 3% of all full moons are blue.

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