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What is a Super Blue Moon?
If you love looking at the night sky, you’re in for a treat on August 30, 2023. A rare super blue moon will rise and shine, offering a spectacular sight for stargazers. But what exactly is a super blue moon and why is it so special? Let’s find out.
The Meaning of Blue Moon
The term blue moon has nothing to do with the color of the moon. It simply refers to the second full moon in a calendar month with two full moons. This happens about once every 2.8 years, because the lunar cycle (the time it takes for the moon to go from one full moon to the next) is 29.5 days, while most months are longer than that.
The super blue moon on August 30, 2023 is a monthly blue moon, because it is the second full moon of August. The first full moon of August was the Sturgeon Moon on August 1.
The Meaning of Supermoon
The term supermoon describes a full moon that occurs when the moon is near its closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit. This makes the moon appear slightly larger and brighter than usual in the sky. The technical term for this phenomenon is perigee-syzygy.
The super blue moon on August 30, 2023 is also a supermoon, because it will be about 224,000 miles (360,000 kilometers) away from Earth, which is less than the average distance of 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).
When and Where to See the Super Blue Moon?
The super blue moon will be visible from most places on Earth, as long as the sky is clear. However, depending on your location and time zone, you may see it at different times and angles.
The Best Time to Watch
The exact moment of the full moon is when the moon is opposite the sun in the sky, which will happen at 9:36 p.m. EDT (0336 GMT) on August 30, 2023. However, this may not be the best time to watch the super blue moon, because it will be high in the sky and may not look very big or bright.
A better time to watch the super blue moon is around moonrise or moonset, when the moon is close to the horizon. This will create an optical illusion that makes the moon look larger and more impressive. According to In the Sky, the super blue moon will rise just after sunset at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT) on August 30 from the eastern horizon, and will set just before sunrise at around 6:46 a.m. EDT (1046 GMT) on August 31 from the western horizon.
You can use timeanddate.com’s Moonrise and Moonset Calculator to find out the exact times for your location.
The Best Place to Watch
The best place to watch the super blue moon is somewhere with a clear view of the horizon, away from tall buildings, trees or mountains that may block your sight. You may also want to avoid places with a lot of light pollution, such as cities or highways, that may dim the brightness of the moon.
Some places that offer a great view of the super blue moon are open fields, parks, beaches or hillsides. You can also use apps or websites like Stellarium or Google Sky to find out where the moon will be in relation to other celestial objects or landmarks.
What to Expect from the Super Blue Moon?
The super blue moon will be a beautiful sight to behold, but don’t expect it to be dramatically different from other full moons. Here are some facts and myths about what you can expect from this lunar event.
The Moon Illusion
As mentioned earlier, the super blue moon will look bigger when it is near the horizon than when it is high in the sky. This is not because of its distance or size, but because of an optical illusion called the Moon Illusion.
The Moon Illusion occurs because our brains perceive objects on the horizon as larger than they really are, due to their comparison with other objects in the foreground, such as trees or buildings. When the moon is high in the sky, there are no such reference points, so it looks smaller.
The Moon Illusion can make the super blue moon look up to 7% bigger than an average full moon, but this is not a significant difference that can be easily noticed by the naked eye. You can test this by holding out your thumb at arm’s length and covering the moon with it. You will see that the moon is always about the same size as your thumb, no matter where it is in the sky.
The Moon’s Color
The super blue moon will not be blue in color, unless there are some unusual atmospheric conditions that scatter the red wavelengths of light and make the moon appear blue. This is very rare and has only happened a few times in history, such as after volcanic eruptions or forest fires.
The super blue moon will most likely be orange or yellow in color, especially when it is near the horizon. This is because of another atmospheric phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, which bends and filters the sunlight that reaches the moon and reflects back to our eyes. The shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue and green, are scattered more than the longer wavelengths, such as red and yellow, which makes the moon look warmer in color.
The color of the super blue moon may also change slightly throughout the night, depending on its position in the sky and the angle of the sunlight. You may notice that the moon looks brighter and whiter when it is high in the sky, and darker and redder when it is low in the sky.