July Is Ending With a Rare Black Supermoon on Wednesday

ManuelHuss/iStock via Getty Images
ManuelHuss/iStock via Getty Images

The list of astronomical events for the month of July reads like something out of a horror story. On July 16, a half-blood thunder moon lit up night skies, and about a week later, a bright green fireball meteor was visible over New England. The month is closing out with its spookiest-sounding phenomenon yet: Wednesday, July 31, will feature a rare black supermoon, MSN reports.

What is a Black Supermoon?

The Farmer's Almanac is filled with special names used to describe moon phases at different times of year. According to the book, a black moon is the name given to the second new moon to occur in a calendar month—something that only happens about once every 2.5 years.

This month's black moon will be especially rare. When the Moon enters its new cycle on July 31, it will be at the closest point to Earth in its orbit. So in addition to being a black moon, Wednesday's new moon will meet the definition of a supermoon.

When Can You See the Black Supermoon?

Unlike past supermoon events, this upcoming black supermoon won't make for an impressive spectacle. A new moon occurs when the Moon falls between the Earth and the Sun. At this point in the lunar cycle, the Moon appears as a black, practically invisible silhouette in the night sky.

Even if you won't be able to see the Moon itself, you should still make time to look up on the night of Wednesday, July 31. A dark new moon creates the perfect viewing conditions for the multiple meteor showers that are active this time of year. To catch potential shooting stars when skies are darkest, wait until 11:12 p.m. EDT for the Moon to reach its full new moon phase.

[h/t MSN]

Rare Harvest ‘Micromoon’ Will Appear on Friday the 13th

pattier/iStock via Getty Images
pattier/iStock via Getty Images

The first Friday the 13th of 2019 is coming this September, coinciding with a spooky full moon—and that unlucky event will also be a harvest micromoon, Newsweek reports. Here's everything you need to know about the lunar spectacle.

What is a harvest micromoon?

Harvest moon describes the full moon that appears in September. You may have heard that the harvest moon is larger and deeper in color than full moons that appear at different times of the year, but this isn't the case. The name harvest moon has nothing to do with its size or appearance. Many people observe the harvest moon just as it surfaces above the horizon—the time when it looks biggest due to the moon illusion, and reddish or orange-y through the filter of Earth's atmosphere. But as the moon climbs higher in the sky throughout the night, these characteristics fade away—just as they would at any other time of year.

This year, the harvest moon will actually look smaller compared to other full moons. On Friday, September 13, the celestial body reaches its apogee, or the point in its orbit where it's farthest from Earth. It has been dubbed a micromoon, which is the opposite of a supermoon.

When to see the harvest micromoon

Besides its scaled-down appearance, Friday's moon won't look any different from a regular full moon. But its rare conjunction with Friday the 13th makes it an event that anyone with a superstitious side won't want to miss. The moon will achieve maximum fullness at 12:33 a.m. the morning of Saturday, September 14 in the Eastern time zone (earlier the further west you go), but it will appear full and bright the previous and following nights. To catch the mini-moon on the 13th, look up late Friday night in a place with minimal light pollution. And if you want the full harvest moon effect, look to the horizon just after moonrise at 7:33 p.m.

[h/t Newsweek]

Northern Lights Could Be Visible Over Parts of America This Weekend

Wiltser/iStock via Getty Images
Wiltser/iStock via Getty Images

After giving us some of the best meteor showers and moon events of the year, August is closing with its greatest spectacle yet. As Forbes reports, the northern lights will be visible over several northern U.S. states in the lower 48 this weekend, including Maine, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

What causes the northern lights

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts G1 and G2 geomagnetic storms for August 31 and September 1, 2019. The aurora borealis is caused by solar particles colliding with gas molecules in the atmosphere. As electrons from the sun come in contact with oxygen and nitrogen, they transfer some of their energy to the gases. The colorful ribbons of light we observe from the ground are these molecules calming down and releasing photons into the sky.

Normally the phenomenon is only visible at northernmost latitudes where the Earth's magnetic field, and therefore levels of solar energy, are strongest. But the upcoming geomagnetic storm is expected to hit the Earth with a concentrated dose of solar particles, potentially causing the northern lights to appear farther south than usual.

Where and when to see the northern lights

The first solar storm of the weekend is predicted for Saturday, August 31, and the second is expected to reach Earth on Sunday. If these forecasts are correct, states spanning the U.S.-Canada border are in for a treat. Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine all fall within the light show's projected path.

As is the case with any nighttime spectacle, the best time to catch the northern lights is when skies are darkest. That means waiting until late at night or early in the morning to look up, and finding a spot that isn't washed out by light pollution is key. Luckily, the solar storms are following the super new moon on August 30, so skies will be especially dark this weekend.

[h/t Forbes]

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