Stargazers and astronomers have an exciting month ahead as two supermoons are set to be visible in August, according to Nasa experts. The first one, called the “Super Sturgeon Moon,” will appear on August 1, followed by a blue moon later in the month. While supermoons create curiosity among the general public, astronomers are especially delighted by their appearance. But what exactly are supermoons, how are they different from the regular moon we see every night, and why do astronomers get so excited about them?
A supermoon occurs when the full moon is closest to the Earth during its orbit. Nasa explains that the moon’s orbit around the planet is not a perfect circle, but rather an extended oval shape called an ellipse. As the moon completes its orbital cycle, it moves in and out of our planet’s atmosphere. The moon reaches its furthest point from the Earth, called the apogee, at which it is typically 253,000 miles away. Conversely, the moon is at its closest point to the Earth, known as the perigee, at a distance of about 226,000 miles.
The occurrence of a supermoon happens when the full moon aligns with its closest approach to Earth, also known as the perigee stage. While the difference may be small, supermoons tend to appear larger and brighter than a regular full moon when viewed from Earth. This year’s supermoon cycle is particularly unique due to four consecutive supermoons. The first one appeared on July 3, while the final one in this series is expected on September 29.
The first Sturgeon Moon, named after a type of fish frequently caught during this month, is set to occur on August 1. Its peak time will be at 1:33 pm EDT. Native American tribes, particularly those in the Great Lakes region of North America, named it the “Sturgeon Moon” due to the abundance of sturgeons caught during August. Sturgeons are ancient fish species with a dinosaur-like appearance that have existed for over 130 million years.
Different cultures and societies have various names for the full moons throughout the year. In addition to the “Sturgeon Moon,” the August full moon is also known as the “Grain Moon” among Algonquins because grains were commonly harvested during this time. Other names for the August full moon include the Green Corn Moon, the Barley Moon, or the Fruit Moon, which refer to the different foods and crops that reach maturity and are ready for harvesting during this period.
Contrary to popular belief, a blue moon does not refer to the color of the moon but instead represents the frequency of its occurrence. A blue moon is the term used when there are two full moons in a calendar month. Because a full moon typically occurs every 29 days and most months last for 30 or 31 days, it is occasionally possible to have two full moons in the same month. The rare event of a blue moon happens approximately every two and a half years. The first blue moon of this year was visible on August 22, 2021.
August will be an exciting month for sky watchers, with two full moons and both of them being supermoons, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. So mark your calendars and get ready to witness the splendor of these celestial events that have captivated humans since ancient times.