Why this weekend’s Blue Moon is extra rare (and how to see it)


August has only one full moon. So why is it “blue”?

A nearly-full moon rises above the Statue of Liberty on June 23, 2021. (Image credit: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The saying “once in a blue moon” is especially pertinent this week: This Sunday (Aug. 22), the full Sturgeon Moon is expected to impress skygazers, particularly because of its “blue” designation.

Typically, the term “Blue Moon” refers to the second full moon within the same month. The last one rose on Oct. 31, 2020, when an eerie Blue Moon lit up the night sky on Halloween. But there’s a lesser-known definition, dating to 1528, which applies to the third full moon in a season with four full moons, according to NASA.

In general, each season has three full moons. But summer 2021, which began June 20 and ends Sept. 22, has four full moons (June 24, July 23, Aug. 22 and Sept. 20). Seasonal Blue Moons are uncommon, occurring about once every two to three years, according to EarthSky. The last one rose on May 18, 2019, and the next one won’t shine until Aug. 19, 2024.

Related: ‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse wows skywatchers (photos)

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This weekend’s moon will reach its fullest at 8:02 a.m. EDT on Sunday (1202 GMT), but it will appear full for about three days, from Friday night (Aug. 20) through Monday morning (Aug. 23), making it a “full moon weekend,” NASA reported. To find your local moonrise and moonset times, go to timeanddate.com.

August’s full moon won’t actually look blue, however; unless smoke particles from this summer’s raging fires turn it orange-red, the moon will appear its usual ghostly white. However, it is possible for a full moon to appear blue. This can happen when particles high in the atmosphere, such as those from a powerful volcanic eruption, scatter light to make the moon look blue from Earth.

August’s full moon is known as the Sturgeon Moon, according to the Maine Farmers’ Almanac, which first published the names of the full moons in the 1930s, NASA reported. The Algonquin tribes in North America reportedly called this the Sturgeon Moon because these fish were plentiful in the Great Lakes and other waterways this time of year, the almanac reported. Another Algonquin name for this moon is the Green Corn Moon.

Other events associated with August’s full moon include the Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters; the Nikini Poya holiday in Sri Lanka, which commemorates the first Buddhist council 2,400 years ago; and the Hungry Ghost Moon Festival in China, when ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased family members, are thought to visit the living, NASA reported.

Skywatchers, especially those with backyard telescopes, will also be able to see Jupiter and Saturn. Both planets will look unusually bright (Saturn was at its closest to Earth on Aug. 2, and Jupiter was at its closest Thursday, Aug. 19) and will appear to move westward in the evening sky, according to NASA. A telescope will help you see Jupiter’s four largest moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Europa and Io), as well as Saturn’s rings and its largest moon, Titan.

Originally published on Live Science.
By Laura Geggel – Editor

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Friday’s full Buck Moon may be an eerie orange. Here’s how to spot it.


Smoke from fires may lead to an intensely-colored moon.

Ash and smoke from the Whittier Fire in California turned the full moon a red-orange color on July 8, 2017. (Image credit: George Rose/Getty Images)

July’s full moon will shine brightly Friday night (July 23), although it may appear orange if you’re in a region affected by smoky skies from this summer’s wildfires.

To catch the Buck Moon at its fullest, look skyward at 10:37 p.m. EDT on Friday (0237 GMT on Saturday, July 24). At that moment, the sun, Earth and moon will be in perfect alignment, but because the moon is about 5 degrees off the plane of Earth’s orbit, the sun’s light will fall fully on the moon’s side facing Earth.

The moon will appear full for about three days around its peak, from Thursday evening (July 22) through Saturday morning, so there’s plenty of time to see it, according to NASA.

Related: Blood supermoon lunar eclipse wows skywatchers around the world (photos)

July’s full moon may appear an unusual color to many people. About 120 fires burning on the U.S. West Coast, including the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, have sent smoke particles across much of the country’s skies, leading to smog and poor air quality, according to Gothamist, a New York City-based publication. This air pollution has caused the sun to appear red-tinted and the moon to look orange.

These brilliant hues are different from the blood-red moon that appears during a lunar eclipse. During a lunar eclipse, Earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon. However, the sun is so big and bright that its light can bend around Earth. This light passes through Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out the shorter blue wavelengths but lets the longer red and orange wavelengths pass through. Those wavelengths reach the moon, turning it rusty red, Live Science previously reported.

In contrast, the Buck Moon’s tint will come from dense smoke particles in Earth’s atmosphere. These smoke particles block the shorter wavelengths of yellow, blue and green but let the longer wavelengths of red and orange pass through, according to NASA. Those longer wavelengths give the sky, and hence the moon and the sun, a red-orange color. These colors may appear especially intense during sunrise and sunset, because sunlight has to travel through more of Earth’s atmosphere at those times, NASA reported.

July’s full moon is called the Buck Moon by the Algonquin Indigenous people of what is now the northeastern United States, according to the now-defunct Maine Farmer’s Almanac, which published the names of the full moons in the 1930s, NASA said. The full moon got this name because this is around when male deer, known as bucks, sprout their velvety antlers.

Male deer use their antlers to attract mates, but when wintertime comes, their antlers fall off, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Other Algonquin names for July’s full moon include the Thunder Moon, due to early summer’s frequent thunderstorms, according to the Maine Farmer’s Almanac. In Europe, the full moon is called the Hay Moon (for haymaking season) and sometimes the Mead or Honey Moon, in honor of the summer’s busy bees.

Hindus, Buddhists and Jains call this full moon the Guru Full Moon (Guru Purnima), which is celebrated as a time for clearing the mind and honoring the guru, or spiritual master, according to NASA.

Originally published on Live Science.
By Laura Geggel – Editor

– Informação chegda hoje, dia 24 de Julho, aliás como tem sido habitual nas publicações da Live Science.

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1064: Mercury Transit on Monday: The Gear You Need to Watch It Safely


Mercury will pass across the face of the sun Monday (Nov. 11) in its first such “transit” since 2016.

The Mercury transit — which begins Monday at 7:35 a.m. EST (1235 GMT) and ends at 1:02 p.m. EST (1804 GMT) — is accessible to amateur astronomers, as long as they have the right equipment to view the event safely. (Warning: Never look directly at the sun without protection; serious and permanent eye damage can result.)

Here’s a brief rundown of the ways you can safely watch the transit, either first-hand or live online.

Related: Mercury Transit 2019: Where and How to See It on Nov. 11

Projecting the image

Mercury is so small that projecting the image using a simple pinhole camera, as many observers do to view solar eclipses, will not produce good results; it’s likely you won’t be able to see anything at all. Instead, you can project the image using binoculars, refractors or small Newtonian telescopes. (Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov designs can’t be used for this, because of the risk of damage.)

Put a low-power eyepiece into your telescope — one that you don’t mind losing if the sun’s heat cracks it. Do not look through the eyepiece or the finder scope. Instead, align the telescope using its shadow on the ground. The more closely aligned the scope is to the sun, the darker and more circular its shadow will appear, according to the British Astronomical Association (BAA).

Take a piece of white paper and hold it about 1 foot (30 centimeters) away from the eyepiece to see the image. You may need to wiggle the telescope a bit to get a good view.

Physics lecturer Mohammad Baqir and his pet duck observed the May 9, 2016 Mercury transit using safe projection techniques.
(Image credit: Mohammad Baqir )

Binoculars or telescopes

You can also outfit your binoculars or telescope with solar filters to view the transit. The type of solar filter depends on your equipment, so check with the manufacturer to see what’s approved.

Alternatively, you can make your own filters using a sheet of Mylar or Baader AstroSolar Film. Just be sure that the homemade filter is securely over the front end of your binoculars or telescope, with no cracks.

“It is essential that the filter fixes very securely to your telescope, that it is undamaged, and that it is designed for safe use with your telescope,” the BAA officials wrote in a press release. “Only buy from reputable suppliers you trust, and thoroughly inspect your filters for damage every time you use them.”

Filters designed for eyepieces should never be used because they are “of suspect quality” and often crack when exposed to the sun’s heat, the BAA added.

A student uses his smartphone and a photographers lens with a solar filter to capture a photo of the planet Mercury transiting the sun on May 9, 2016.
(Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

Community telescopes

Many museums or amateur astronomy organizations are holding special public events for the Mercury transit. So if you don’t have your own gear, check the nearest science museum or astronomy club to see if they are going to set something up somewhere in your community.

You can find the nearest astronomy club in your area here.

Watching online

Another option is to watch the transit from wherever you happen to be that day, which is especially handy if you are stuck at work or school. Space.com will show live webcasts from Slooh and the Virtual Telescope Project.

The Slooh online observatory will begin streaming live views of the Mercury transit from telescopes around the world at 7:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT). You can watch it live here on Space.com or directly via Slooh’s YouTube channel.

At the same time, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy will also stream live telescope views of the transit. You can watch the free webcast live here.

Meanwhile, NASA will post real-time images from its Solar Dynamics Observatory at mercurytransit.gsfc.nasa.gov/2019.

Editor’s note: Visit Space.com on Monday to see live webcast views of the rare Mercury transit from Earth and space, and for complete coverage of the celestial event. If you SAFELY capture a photo of the transit of Mercury and would like to share it with Space.com and our news partners for a story or gallery, you can send images and comments in to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

This article was originally posted on May 6, 2016 for the previous Mercury transit and has been updated for 2019.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace. Follow Space.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

By Elizabeth Howell – Live Science Contributor


982: On Friday the 13th, Don't Be Freaked Out by the 'Micromoon'

The full micromoon adds a little extra creepiness to Friday the 13th.
(Image: © Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock)

A full moon on Friday the 13th is spooky enough, but hold on to your black cats. September’s full moon will also be a “micromoon.”

Skywatchers in Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones will get a view of the full moon tonight (Sept. 13) at 11:32 p.m., 10:32 p.m. and 9:32 p.m., respectively, while East Coasters will see the moon at its fullest at 12:32 a.m. on the 14th. Regardless of time zone, the moon will appear just a bit dimmer than usual (eerie!), because it will be at apogee, or its farthest distance from Earth.

That means that the moon will appear about 14% smaller and 30% dimmer than when it is at its closest point to Earth, which is known as perigee.

Related: 5 Strange, Cool Things We’ve Recently Learned About the Moon

Moon mechanics

The moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical. Each month, as this natural satellite orbits the planet, it passes through one apogee and one perigee. Moons at perigee are known as “supermoons.” The closest perigee of 2019 occurred on Feb. 19, when the moon traveled within 221,681 miles (356,761 kilometers) of Earth.

The farthest apogee of the year was also in February, on the 5th, when the moon was 252,622 miles (406,555 km) away. This month’s apogee puts the moon 252,511 miles (406,377 km) away.

Realistically, the difference between a supermoon and a micromoon is hard to spot. “[It’s] not enough to notice unless you’re a very careful moon-watcher,” Sky & Telescope magazine senior editor Alan MacRobert said in a 2016 statement. Indeed, the term “supermoon” appeared in the lexicon only in 1979, according to that statement, and it wasn’t until a spate of three supermoons in 2016 that the term became popular.

Moon terms

Though a dimmer-than-usual full moon could make Friday the 13th feel a little creepier, don’t expect werewolves and mayhem. Full moons have occurred on Friday the 13ths before to no ill effect, and lots of research finds that humans are not affected by the moon’s cycles. Contrary to popular myth, you’re not more likely to go into labor, have seizures or go mad in the face of a full moon.

It’s possible, though, that this month’s superstitiously timed moon could act as a public relations boost for the micromoon. Perhaps, because bigger is better, micro- or minimoons haven’t gotten the same attention as supermoons. Google minimoon, and you’ll find more results about taking a local honeymoon than you will about any astronomical phenomenon (though Live Science’s sister site Space.com has used the term). The term micromoon has been in play since at least 2016, as in this NASA side-by-side comparison of the moon at perigee and apogee. But while “supermoon” will net you more than 9.3 million Google results, micromoon clocks in at less than a million.

Will this month’s freaky Friday the 13th full moon change that? Stay tuned. The next full micromoon isn’t until Oct. 1, 2020.

Originally published on Live Science.

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