A supermoon and a meteor shower will create a rare side-by-side celestial spectacle on Thursday night. It’s your last chance to see a supermoon for another year.
NASA says the Perseids are the ultimate meteor shower, as Earth plows through a field of debris left by a comet, and 50 to 100 shooting stars streak across the sky as pieces of comets burn up in the atmosphere. This year, however, the moon will appear to swell big and bright in the sky, outshining many of the fireballs.
“Unfortunately, this year’s Perseid peak will see the worst possible circumstances for spotters,” Bill Cooke, who heads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement.
At best, Cooke said, observers in North America will likely see 10 to 20 meteors an hour.
– Bright moon phases are bad for meteor showers because they wash out the weaker meteors, says Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, to CNN.
“A full or nearly full moon dominates a part of the sky, making that part undesirable for meteor observation. The full moon also lasts all night, leaving no hours of complete darkness, which is preferred,” Hankey added.
When the Perseids peak on Friday and Saturday night, the moon will still appear full. The shower continues until September 1st, so there’s still time to see some shooting stars.
To see both the moon and the meteors most clearly, it helps to go somewhere dark, far from city lights. But this year is probably not worth a big trip for the Perseids, NASA’s statement said.
A super sturgeon moon takes the stage on Thursday
There is no official definition of a supermoon, but the term usually refers to a full moon that occurs at perigee – the closest point to Earth in its orbit. There’s a slight difference in distance, but at this time the moon can appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than it does at apogee, its farthest point from Earth, according to TimeandDate.com.
The big white orb hanging in the sky on Thursday is also a Sturgeon Moon — a name for any full moon in August, historically peak fishing season for the hearty sturgeon in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. The full moon name comes from indigenous groups in these regions, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
The moon will probably appear largest when it hovers closest to the horizon, thanks to an optical illusion. It will shine brightest at 9:36 p.m. ET, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
The next supermoon will happen in August 2023, according to In-The-Sky.org.
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