August Is Ending With a Super New Moon

Allexxandar/iStock via Getty Images
Allexxandar/iStock via Getty Images

Look up early in the morning of Friday, August 30, 2019, and you won't see anything but an especially dark sky. That's because the moon is entering the "new" phase of its cycle, meaning it's not visible to the naked eye. Even though you can't see it, this upcoming super new moon marks one of the biggest lunar events of the year, and its effects on the tides will be felt around the world, Forbes reports.

What is a super new moon?

The moon follows a 29.5-day lunar cycle, starting with a new moon and ending with a full moon. As the body orbits the Earth, it moves in and out of our planet's shadow, appearing more or less visible each night. A new moon occurs when the moon falls between the Earth and the sun and its near side is totally dark.

New moons happen regularly, but this upcoming event is special. It's also a supermoon. A moon becomes "super" when it reaches its perigee, or the point in its orbit closest to Earth. On Friday night, the supermoon and the new moon will coincide.

Typically, supermoons are a chance to see the moon at its largest in the night sky, but that won't be the case this week. The super new moon will make its presence known in other ways. Tides are always strongest when the moon is closest to Earth. When the moon enters its new phase, it will have the extra gravitational pull of the sun literally backing it up, resulting in super-charged "king" tides across the half of the Earth it's facing. The teamed-up forces of both celestial bodies will be so strong that the normally placid River Severn in the UK could flow backwards and see 32-foot waves.

When is the super new moon?

The new moon will reach its darkest stage at 6:37 a.m. EST on Friday, August 30. If you go out expecting to see the moon, you'll be disappointed, but the dark sky will create optimal conditions for stargazing. Here are some of the best places on Earth to look at the stars.

[h/t Forbes]

A Huge Full Hunter’s Moon Will Light Up The Sky This Weekend

Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images
Chayanan/iStock via Getty Images

This weekend’s full moon will likely draw your eye even more than a regular one does.

Newsweek reports that what’s known as the full hunter’s moon—the first full moon after the harvest moon—will rise right around sunset, making it seem both much larger and more orange than usual. Though you’ll likely be able to spot it from Saturday, October 12 through the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 15, the best time to look up is Sunday night, October 13, when the moon reaches peak fullness.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hunter’s moon may seem so huge because of a simple trick our eyes play on us called the “moon illusion.” Usually, when the moon is high and far from the horizon, it’s the main thing we see in the sky. Because the sky itself is so unfathomably vast, the moon looks pretty small. The hunter’s moon, however, appears lower in the sky, giving us a chance to view it next to things like trees and buildings. Since the moon is so much larger than those objects, our brains may process it with a better sense of scale.

The reason the hunter’s moon often glows orange is also related to its lower position. The moon is actually closer to us when it’s higher in the sky, so the light it reflects has to travel a shorter distance to reach our eyes, leaving the shorter wavelengths of blue light intact. When the moon is low, the air scatters those short blue wavelengths before they get to us, and only the longer, reddish wavelengths make it through.

Though we don’t know for sure why it’s called a hunter’s moon, The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that it may have once indicated the beginning of prime hunting season, when hunters could easily spot animals in fields that harvesters had just cleared after the previous month’s harvest moon.

And, after the hunter’s moon has come and gone, be sure to catch the full beaver moon in November.

[h/t Newsweek]

The Draconid and Southern Taurid Meteor Showers Peak Tonight and Tomorrow

Eshma/iStock via Getty Images
Eshma/iStock via Getty Images

This week, you have two phenomenal opportunities to see a meteor shower light up the night sky. Here's how to catch a glimpse of the Draconids and Southern Taurids.

When to See the Draconid Meteor Shower

First up is the Draconid shower, which happens annually when Earth crosses the orbit of Comet21P/Giacobini-Zinner, and the comet's debris transforms into meteors when it hits Earth’s atmosphere. Draconid refers to the appearance of the meteors near the head of the constellation Draco the dragon. According to EarthSky, the shower is also sometimes referred to as the Giacobinids—after Michel Giacobini, who discovered the comet in 1900.

The shower will peak Tuesday, October 8, into the following morning, and your best chance to spot a few meteors is right at nightfall. USA Today reports that since the meteors will be competing with the light from the moon, you should focus your gaze on an empty patch of sky.

When Comet21P/Giacobini-Zinner reaches its closest point to the sun, or perihelion, the number of meteors can sometimes reach the hundreds or even thousands. Since its most recent perihelion was just last year—and its next one won’t come until 2025—EarthSky predicts that this year’s orbital intersection will produce just about five meteors per hour.

When to See the Southern Taurid Meteor Shower

If you miss the Draconids’ display on Tuesday night, you can try again on Wednesday at nightfall with the Southern Taurids. Although the Taurids—referring to their proximity to the constellation Taurus—won’t likely amount to many more meteors per hour than the Draconids, the meteors themselves might be more noticeable. According to the American Meteor Society, the Taurids are “rich in fireballs,” which are such large, brilliant meteors that they can even cast shadows on the ground.

And, if the meteors manage to escape your line of sight altogether this week, don’t worry: The Orionid meteor shower is on its way later this month, followed by the Leonids in November and the Geminids in December.

[h/t USA Today]

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