Nature has a way of captivating us with its celestial wonders, and one such spectacle is about to grace the night sky. On the last couple of nights of August 2023, sky-watchers will be treated to a “Super Blue Moon”. This supermoon will actually rise at around midday on August 31st (in the UK) so it is both Thursday and Friday evening’s moon that it is worth looking out for as it will be the biggest, brightest full moon of the year.
What is a Supermoon?
Generally speaking, a supermoon is a full moon that appears larger than a typical full moon because it is closer to Earth.
A supermoon occurs when a full moon with the moon's closest approach to Earth.
The orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle; it's slightly elliptical (oval). The point on the Moon's orbit closest to Earth is called the perigee and the point farthest away is the apogee. When the Moon is closest to Earth during its orbit (the perigee) and this timing coincides with the time of the full moon, its proximity causes a full moon to appear about 15%-30% brighter and 7-14% bigger in the sky – making it a supermoon!
What is a Blue Moon?
"Blue moon", like "supermoon" is not really an astronomical term. A blue moon happens either when there are two full moons in a calendar month or four full moons in a season. A season is the period between solstices and equinoxes (e.g. the Summer season runs from 21st June 21, the summer solstice, and ends on 23rd September, the autumn equinox). Ordinarily there are three full moons in a season, but just occasionally we see four.
A Blue Moon only occurs about every two and a half years. Because this phenomenon is relatively rare, the phrase "once in a blue moon" is used to describe infrequent events.
Why is it called a blue moon?
The phrase in modern usage has nothing to do with the actual colour of the Moon, although a visually blue moon (the Moon appearing with a bluish tinge) can occur under certain atmospheric conditions (for instance if you are under a polluted or dusty sky).
One explanation for the name connects it with the word “belewe” from Old English, meaning, “to betray.” This word was used to describe an additional 'false' moon entering the calendar in the late Spring and causing much confusion about the correct timing of lunar-based Easter. The Moon was “belewe” because it betrayed the usual perception of just one full moon each month (or three in a season).
Folklore named each of the 12 full moons in a year according to its time of year. The occasional extra 13th full moon was called a "blue moon", so that the rest of the moons that year retained their customary seasonal names.
How to enjoy the full Moon
For your best chance to see the Moon at its most majestic, choose a location with minimal light pollution. Parks, open fields, or elevated areas can provide an unobstructed view of the sky. Notice the patterns, shades and textures that you can see on the moon. If you have binoculars, these will help you see it even more clearly.
If you have any crystals, placing them under a full moon is believed to recharge their energy.
Meditate on the Moon, enjoy the silver luminosity of the Moon as it shines down upon you. Visualise your body absorbing this tranquil soothing energy as you breathe in, letting it wash over you then feel yourself relax and let go as you breathe out.
As this special moon graces the night sky, take a moment to reflect on the beauty and wonder of the cosmos, reminding us of the incredible universe we are part of.