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Super Blue Moon: When can you see the August 2023 Super Moon?

Super Blue Moon: When can you see the August 2023 Super Moon?

Astronomy buffs and skygazers around the country should be able to catch a glimpse of a rare Super Blue Moon on the night of August 30 - August 31.

This supermoon, the second one that’s appeared in our skies this month, will rise on Wednesday night and peak in the early hours of Thursday in the UK.

Named because of how rare it is, the Super Blue Moon won’t appear again for the next 14 years.

While many will be hoping to catch the spectacle in all its glory, timing and the night weather might affect just how well you’ll be able to see the supermoon phenomenon tonight.

Rare super blue moon set to delight stargazers (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)
Rare super blue moon set to delight stargazers (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)

What is a Blue Moon and when will it rise?

Tonight’s moon is called a Blue Moon, because it is the second full moon that occurs during a calendar month. Having two full moons in the same month is a rare occurrence, and this is what inspires the expression “once in a blue moon”.

Those hoping to see a blue tinge to the moon will be disappointed, however. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the term originated from the 16th-century expression “the Moon is blue”, meaning something that is impossible.

As well as this, for a few years after the eruption of Indonesia’s Krakatoa in 1883, people reported seeing strangely coloured sunsets and a Moon that appeared blue. As such, “once in a blue moon” came to be known as something that was possible, but a rare occurence.

This moon will be both a Blue Moon and a supermoon (a Super Blue Moon) because it will be both the second full moon in a month and the closest to Earth, making it appear both larger and brighter than usual. The moon will be in close proximity to Saturn on the same day.

How to watch tonight’s Super Blue Moon

As long as the sky is clear, you should be able to see the Super Blue Moon just by looking up at the night sky.

However, this will be weather permitting.

Those who want to get a closer look can also consider using a telescope or binoculars.

The Shard in London in front of the supermoon (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
The Shard in London in front of the supermoon (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

What is a supermoon and are there any more in 2023?

The supermoon is a combination of a lunar perigee — when the Moon is at its closest to Earth — and a full moon.

This is why it appears to be so large and bright in the sky, and why it can be spotted so close to the horizon.

The Royal Museums Greenwich said: “Seeing moonrise just after sunset or moonset just before sunrise will be an impressive sight as it will appear enormous compared to the surrounding landscape.

“This is due to an optical illusion. During moonrise, the Moon looks bigger than it is because our brain doesn’t understand that the sky is a dome. It falsely projects things near the horizon to appear larger than they actually are.”

Full moons occur every 29.5 days when the Moon has completed its lunar phase cycle fully. Each moon is given a different name.

Prior to tonight’s Super Blue Moon, the most recent took place on August 1 and was called the Sturgeon Moon. This was because there was an increased amount of sturgeon fish during this month and Native Americans would catch them at this time. It has nothing to do with Nicola Sturgeon, despite how often she has been in the news of late.

Full moons in 2023

The other full moons in 2023 are:

  • September 29: Harvest Moon

  • October 28: Hunter’s Moon

  • November 27: Frost Moon or Beaver Moon

  • December 27: Cold Moon

The reason for moons being given different names dates back thousands of years and relates to the behaviour of the plants, animals, or weather that month. They have generally been attributed to names chosen by Native American tribes.