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August will feature a spectacular double-supermoon display.

At the beginning and end of August, the moon will be very close to Earth, making for spectacular lunar displays. There will be two supermoons this month, as the moon will be in each of these orbital locations while appearing full.

At 2:32 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the first of the supermoons will reach its closest approach to Earth of about 222,158 miles (357,530 kilometers), as calculated by retired NASA astronomer Fred Espenak. This will allow lunar gazers in Europe, the United Kingdom, Africa, and the Middle East to witness the orb at its brightest in the night sky. On the evening of August 1, observers in the United States can relax knowing that the moon will appear round. Due to their proximity, supermoons appear brighter and larger than ordinary full moons, however this is not always noticeable with the human eye.

The full moon this week is also known as the “sturgeon moon” because, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, this is the time of year when these giant freshwater fish were most readily available for capture in the Great Lakes by indigenous populations. In the United States, the sturgeon supermoon will be visible Tuesday evening after sunset if you face southeast.

On August 30, the full moon will be approximately 222,043 miles (357,344 kilometers) from Earth, making it a rare super blue moon.

The term “blue moon” is used to describe the rare occurrence of a second full moon in the same calendar month, which occurs roughly once every 2.5 years. For instance, the last blue moon was in October of 2020.

The almanac predicts that the super blue moon on August 30 will be at its brightest at 9:36 p.m. ET. If the weather cooperates, you can also see the heavenly body on the evening of August 31.

But keep in mind that despite the name, the color won’t be blue. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the term “blue moon” comes from a 16th-century statement in which a blue moon meant something that never, and subsequently rarely, occurred.

What exactly are a full moon, supermoon, and blue moon?

When the sun completely lights up the near side of the moon at night, we see a full moon. This happens about once a month.

Supermoons occur less frequently.

The moon’s path around Earth is not perfectly round, which causes several phenomena. Instead, the moon follows an oval trajectory that brings it closer to Earth at certain stages of its orbit. NASA estimates that the precise distance between the Earth and the moon varies by approximately 26,222 miles (42,200 kilometers).

It is called a “supermoon” when the moon is full and at its closest approach to Earth (called “perigee” in scientific jargon).

According to the UK’s National Space Centre, this is a “perigean full moon,” and it can be up to 30% brighter and appear roughly 14% larger than full moons that occur at the moon’s farthest point from Earth.

The word “supermoon” has been criticized for being overused because it can be used to describe full moons that do not occur at the moon’s closest point to Earth and which do not always look significantly larger or brighter than regular full moons.

The name “supermoon” isn’t recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but NASA notes that “it’s used to describe a full Moon that comes within at least 90 percent of perigee.” And occurrences on the Moon like this aren’t rare: There are normally three or four supermoons per year.

Optical illusions cause the moon to appear larger when it is near the horizon, says Adam Block, a researcher and operations specialist at the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. And whether or not the moon is in supermoon territory has nothing to do with that phenomena.

The illusion, Block said, “completely disappears” if one “turns around in the opposite direction” and is “flexible enough to bend over and look between your legs at the moon upside down.”

Although not uncommon or physically noticeable, supermoons do have an effect on Earth. NASA noted that higher tides can occur when the moon is physically closer to Earth.

However, blue moons are much less often. Originally referring to a full moon that occurred twice in one tropical year (the time between the spring and fall equinoxes), the word is now more generally used to describe the occurrence of two full moons in the same calendar month.

The full moon on August 30 is especially noteworthy because not all blue moons are supermoons. According to Espenak’s calculations, the next time there will be two supermoons in the same month is in January 2037.

The last full moon of the month in January 2018 was not only a blue moon and a supermoon, but it was also a blood moon, or total lunar eclipse, making for a truly amazing sky-watching experience. The full moon becomes reddish because of Earth’s shadow during these times.

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