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Last supermoon of the year will be brighter and larger

This particular full moon shares the spotlight with Perseids, one of the best meteor showers of this year.

WASHINGTON — The night sky will witness two celestial shows within just days as the last supermoon of 2022 shines its brightest and largest light Thursday. 

Thursday's "Sturgeon Moon" gets its name from the Maine Farmer's Almanac, which began publishing Native American names for full moons in the 1930s. The Algonquin tribe named this August full moon 'Sturgeon Moon' after the large fish that were caught with much ease during that time. 

But this particular full moon shares the spotlight with Perseids, one of the best meteor showers of this year. Unfortunately, the full moon's bright light could outshine and make it harder to witness the Perseid showers as they peak late Friday into early Saturday morning. 

"The show's gonna be a bit muted, but still, there's enough bright meteors that you can still see enough activity by just facing away from the moon," said American Meteor Society editor Robert Lunsford.

According to NASA's website, the moon will maintain a full-like appearance for about three days until Saturday morning.

What is a supermoon?

The moon's orbit around the earth is an ellipse, not a perfect circle. A full moon is considered a supermoon when it comes within 90% of perigee, its closest point to Earth. 

According to NASA, the closest supermoons appear "about 17 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter" than the furthest, faintest moon of the year. That 17% isn't actually enough to make the moon look noticeably bigger, but NASA says supermoons are still a bit brighter than other full moons. 

The perigee is about 226,000 miles from Earth — about 25,000 miles closer than the moon's furthest point. 

While it's popularly used to describe the closest full moons, "supermoon" isn't an official astronomical term. In fact, it was coined by an astrologer in 1979. 

A moon of many names

Each full moon has a set of nicknames, popularized by farmer's almanacs and connected to the seasons when they take place. 

Thursday's "Sturgeon Moon" gets its name from the Maine Farmer's Almanac, which began publishing Native American names for full moons in the 1930s. The Algonquin tribe named this August full moon "Sturgeon Moon" after the large fish that were caught with much ease during that time. 

It is also called the "Green Corn Moon," according to NASA.

But the moon is also tied to celebrations, such as in Sri Lanka where every full moon is a holiday, according to NASA's website. This full moon is Nikini Poya, which commemorates the first Buddhist council that occurred nearly 2,400 years ago. It also is tied to the end of the Escala Perahera festival, also known as the Festival of the Tooth, a two-week Buddhist festival held each year, according to NASA's website.

Thursday's full moon also corresponds with the Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the bonds between sisters and brothers. The term "Raksha Bandhan" translates as "the bond of protection, obligation, or care."

When can you watch the Perseid meteor shower? 

Despite being active for weeks, the Perseids reach a crescendo in mid-August. The peak was Aug. 11 and Aug 12 in recent years, but the exact time of the peak gets later by about 6 hours each year. 

"That's simply due to the fact that it takes the Earth 365 days and a quarter day, which is six hours, to complete its full revolution," Lunsford explained. 

NASA and the American Meteor Society say you can watch the peak of the Perseids from Aug. 12 to Aug. 13 in 2022, but meteor activity from the shower will also be high in the nights before and after. 

The best time to watch the Perseids is the early morning hours because the constellation Perseus -- the place in the sky the meteors will appear to originate from -- will be high in the night sky instead of close to the horizon.

 

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