How to See the Full Sturgeon Moon on Thursday

Brook Mitchell, Stringer/Getty Images
Brook Mitchell, Stringer/Getty Images

The full moon of every month has a special nickname. Some—like September's harvest moon, December's cold moon, and May's flower moon—have obvious connections to their seasons, while other names are harder to decode. August's sturgeon moon is an example of the latter. It may not be the prettiest lunar title in The Old Farmer's Almanac, but that doesn't mean the event itself on August 15, 2019 won't be a spectacular sight to behold.

What is a Full Sturgeon Moon?

The first (and normally the only) full moon that occurs in August is called a sturgeon moon. The name may have originated with Native American tribes living around the Great Lakes in the Midwest and Lake Champlain in New England. These bodies of water contain lake sturgeon, a species of freshwater fish that grows up to 6.5 feet in length and can live 55 years or longer. August's full moon was dubbed the sturgeon moon to reflect its harvesting season. This full moon is sometimes called the green corn moon, the grain moon, and the blackberry moon for similar reasons.

When to See the Full Sturgeon Moon

On Thursday, August 15, the full sturgeon moon will be highly visible around sunrise and sunset. The satellite will be 99.9 percent illuminated by the sun when it sets Thursday morning at 5:57 a.m EDT—just nine minutes before dawn. On the West Coast, the setting moon will coincide perfectly with the rising sun at 6:15 a.m. PDT.

If you aren't interested in getting out of bed early to catch the sturgeon moon, wait until Thursday evening to look to the horizon. Twenty-seven minutes after sunset, the full moon will rise on the East Coast at 8:21 p.m. EDT. On the West Coast it rises at 8:10 p.m. PDT, 30 minutes after the sun sets.

The moon generally looks bigger and brighter when it's near the horizon, so twilight and dawn are ideal times to catch the spectacle. But it's worth taking another peek at the sky closer to midnight Thursday night; the Perseid meteor shower is currently active, and though the light of the moon may wash them out, you're most likely to spot a shooting star in the late night and early morning hours.

A Full Harvest Moon Is Coming in September

suerob/iStock via Getty Images
suerob/iStock via Getty Images

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists a special name for every month's full moon, from January's wolf moon to December's cold moon. Even if you're just a casual astronomy fan, you've likely heard the name of September's full moon. The harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the fall equinox, and it's associated with festivals celebrating the arrival of autumn. Here's what you need to know before catching the event this year.

What is a harvest moon?

You may have heard that the harvest moon is special because it appears larger and darker in the night sky. This may be true depending on what time of night you look at it, but these features are not unique to the harvest moon.

Throughout the year, the moon rises on average 50 minutes later each night than it did the night before. This window shrinks in the days surrounding the fall equinox. In mid-latitudes, the moon will rise over the horizon only 25 minutes to 30 minutes later night after night. This means the moonrise will occur around sunset several evenings in a row.

So what does this mean for the harvest moon? If you're already watching the sunset and you catch the moonrise at the same time, it will appear bigger than usual thanks to something called the moon illusion. It may also take on an orange-y hue because you're gazing at it through the thick filter of the Earth's atmosphere, which absorbs blue light and projects red light. So if you've only seen the full harvest moon around sunset, you may think it always looks especially big and orange, while in reality, any full moon will look that way when it's just above the horizon.

When to See the Harvest Moon

This year, the harvest moon will be visible the night of Saturday, September 14—about a week before the fall equinox on September 23. The moon will reach its fullest state at 12:33 a.m. ET—but if you're still convinced it's not a true harvest moon without that pumpkin-orange color, you can look for it at moonrise at 7:33 p.m. on September 13.

The Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Next Week—Here's How to Boost Your Chance of Seeing a Shooting Star

wisanuboonrawd/iStock via Getty Images
wisanuboonrawd/iStock via Getty Images

The Perseids—the most reliable and often the most dazzling meteor shower of the year—have been visible from Earth since July. Usually, each year around mid-August, the meteor shower peaks at around 60 or more shooting stars blazing across the sky every hour. In 2019, the spectacle occurs just days apart from a full moon, which will make it more difficult to view compared to previous years. But if you know when and were to look, you can boost your chances of catching a glimpse of the event.

When to See the Perseid Meteor Shower

As Business Insider reports, the Perseids are set to peak the night of Monday, August 12 into the morning of August 13. Just two days later on August 15, August's full moon (also called a sturgeon moon) will light up the night's sky. That means the Moon will already be significantly big and bright on Monday night and wash out many fainter shooting stars that would otherwise be visible.

But that's no reason to stay indoors at night. Though you probably won't see 100 or even 60 shooting stars per hour as have been recorded in the past, you may still be able to see the brightest meteors in the light of the large Moon. Fireballs—extra bright meteors like the one that was reported over New England last month—will be easiest to spot.

How to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower

To maximize your chances of catching the Perseids this year, look up on the night of August 11. The shower won't quite have reached its peak by then, but skies will be darker than they're expected to be later in the week. The Moon sets at 3 a.m. that night, and any time after that will give you your best shot at seeing a shooting star. Any meteors will appear to originate in the northeastern sky from the direction of the constellation Perseus, but they can be spotted anywhere.

If you don't have any luck on your first try, there's no harm heading outside the night of the shower's peak on the 12th. Anytime after midnight is generally the best time for meteor-viewing.

[h/t Business Insider]

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