A remarkable celestial event is on the horizon for stargazing enthusiasts in the UK. A rare super blue moon is set to illuminate the night sky this Thursday, captivating observers with a spectacle that occurs only once within the span of a year.
Understanding the Phenomenon:
Contrary to its name, a blue moon is not a reference to the moon’s color; instead, it denotes the occurrence of a second full moon within a single calendar month. Given that most months host only one full moon, the emergence of a second is a rather infrequent occurrence, happening approximately every two to three years.
Glimpse of the Phenomenon:
This unique super blue moon will appear larger than its usual size, gracing the night sky as it rises around 8 PM (BST) on Thursday, and gracefully setting around 6 AM (BST) the ensuing day. The pinnacle of the moon’s full illumination, when its near side is completely bathed in sunlight, will transpire at 2:35 AM (BST) on Friday.
Optimal Viewing Conditions:
Those wishing to catch a glimpse need not fret about staying awake into the early morning hours, as experts suggest that the moon’s appearance will remain relatively consistent throughout the night. The key to an optimal viewing experience lies in selecting a time when local conditions facilitate a clear sky—minimal cloud cover, favorable weather, and unhindered visibility on the horizon devoid of structures or trees.
Astronomer Professor Don Pollacco from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick offers insights into the moon’s apparent size and its intriguing connection to the sun. The moon’s relative proximity to Earth, despite its smaller size compared to the sun, results in a phenomenon where their sizes appear quite similar. This effect is pronounced due to the moon’s elliptical orbit around our planet. Prof. Pollacco further explains that a supermoon is born when the moon reaches its full phase while positioned at its closest point to Earth, resulting in an apparent increase in size (10-15%) and brightness (25-30%) compared to a standard full moon.
Best Times for Observation:
For optimal viewing, look eastward after sunset. The moon’s brilliance allows it to remain visible even under conditions that aren’t particularly dark or clear. Its visibility will persist throughout the night until it finally sets in the west around sunrise.
Dr. Greg Brown, an accomplished astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, sheds light on the convergence of two extraordinary astronomical events in the month of August: a blue moon and a supermoon. He clarifies that while definitions for these occurrences might vary, the most widely accepted interpretation of a blue moon is the second full moon within a single calendar month. On the other hand, a supermoon is characterized by the moon’s proximity to Earth during its full phase, resulting in a perceptible increase in size and brightness.
As the curtain rises on this rare celestial spectacle, it offers a compelling union of a blue moon and a supermoon, exemplifying the captivating wonders of the universe. While the definitions of these phenomena may possess intricacies, the awe-inspiring experience they offer remains accessible to all who turn their gazes skyward.