It’s a Full Moon again, and we all know what that is. In simplest of terms it’s when Earth’s companion is opposite the sun from us, and its whole face is illuminated in our sky. That’s not all that special as a complete lunar cycle occurs every month as a matter of course. It happens every single month.
However, this particular Full Moon boasts a greater number of exceptional attributes than the average one.
You’ll hear terms like Super Moon, Blood Moon or Blue Moon. This Full Moon peaks overnight on Aug. 30 into Aug. 31. It is officially called a Full, Super, Blue Moon. (don’t worry, we’ll explain it all). It’s also the only blue Moon of 2023! And to make that even more special, this won’t occur again until 2037.
The Moonrise is going to be at:
- 7:45 P.M. on Wednesday August 30th
- 8:15 P.M. on Thursday August 31st
Heading is at:
- 105 Degrees East South East on Wednesday
- 96 Degrees East on Thursday
If 0 degrees is North, and 90 degrees is East, then 96 is going to be just a little further clockwise around the dial, right? 105 is going to be just a little more than that. Look due east and then tilt your head just a little to the south. There it is!
THE FULL MOON
Like we mentioned at the top, a Full Moon is something that happens every single month. It’s when we look up in the sky and see the most complete circle of moon possible.
Technically speaking, the Full Moon is the lunar phase when the Moon appears fully illuminated from our (the Earth’s) perspective. This occurs when Earth is located between the Sun and the Moon (when the ecliptic longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180°). This means that the lunar hemisphere facing Earth—the near side—is completely sunlit and appears to us as an complete circular disk.
Let’s just leave it at that. Do not go down the Ecliptic Longitudinal Rabbit Hole.
THE SUPER MOON
Sadly, there’s no Marvel Superhero to thank for the Super Moon but wouldn’t that be cool? Instead, there’s just a simple answer for this one.
We do know that the Earth orbits the Sun and while we’re busy doing that, the Moon is also orbiting us, right? We might know that our orbit around the Sun is not exactly circular, more egg shaped. Did you know that the orbit of the Moon is also not circular? Now you do!
So knowing that, science says that a Super Moon is a full moon (or a new moon) that nearly coincides with “perigee” (the closest that the Moon comes to the Earth in its elliptic orbit) resulting in a slightly larger than usual apparent size of the Moon as viewed from Earth.
How much larger? Most estimates will say 14% larger at the horizon. It’ll also be brighter! But know this: The gargantuan Super Moon cresting Earth’s horizon is not as big as it looks. The so called Moon on the Horizon illusion is a strange, not-well-understood phenomenon that makes the Moon look huge because of how it is arrayed against the landscape, or objects in the foreground. We might see this and say it was HUGE, but in reality it’s just slightly bigger – 14% to be exact.
Here’s a quick illustration of a Full Moon at 300 pixels on the left and one that is 14% larger or 342 pixels on the right. The actual size of each might change depending on the device your viewing this on (FresYes is Mobile Responsive) but the relation between the two will be the same.
THE BLUE MOON
It won’t actually appear as the color blue. It will be brighter though. 14% brighter? Nope. It will be almost 30% brighter! This is due to the inverse square law of light which changes the amount of light received on Earth in inverse proportion to the distance from the Moon. Want to go down that rabbit hole? CLICK HERE.
Any color you might see is going to be more reflective of the what that light had to pass through when it went through our atmosphere. Smog, forest fires, and even just plain old water – all of those things floating in our air are going to change the color we see. It’s also what makes our sunset look so great!
So what does Blue Moon mean? The term “Blue Moon” is used to describe the occurrence of two full Moons within a single calendar month. Normally, each month aligns with the Moon’s 29.5-day orbit, resulting in one full lunar cycle per month. Normally.
Being a reader of FresYes, and as sharp as you are, you know that our months are not 29.5 days long. Maths tell us that 365 divided by 12 comes out to around 30.4 days depending on a leap year or not. So every few years, a lunar cycle finishes and starts anew within the same calendar month, leading to two Full Moons in that month. We last witnessed a Full Moon on August 1st, and we’ll see another one on August 30th, making it a Blue Moon. The last Blue Moon was in August 2021, and the next one is expected in August 2024. These occurrences are quite rare, which is why the saying “Once in a Blue Moon” exists.
You know the song Blue Moon…
Blue moon you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Right now, you are hearing Elvis sing that in your head. But it was written in 1934 for a MGM movie called Hollywood Party, a film that was to star many of the studio’s top artists. In particular for a scene in which Jean Harlow is shown as an innocent young girl saying—or rather singing—her prayers. The purpose was to express Harlow’s overwhelming ambition to become a movie star. The song was not recorded and Harlow was cut from the movie. Elvis recorded his version in 1956, the Marcels also recorded it in 1961.
Another amazing factoid: in Star Wars: A New Hope, when they say…
Luke Skywalker: Look at him; he’s heading for that small moon.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: That’s no moon. It’s a space station.
Han Solo: It’s too big to be a space station.
Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this.
It has absolutely nothing to do with a Full, Super or Blue Moon, but we’ll look for anything, anywhere, that we can sneak a Star Wars reference in. 😉