Thursday, August 31, 2023

From KCCI-TV, Des Moines

Stargazers were in for a double treat this week: a rare blue supermoon with Saturn peeking from behind.

The cosmic curtain rises Wednesday night (Aug. 30) with the second full moon of the month, the reason it’s considered blue. It’s dubbed a supermoon because it’s closer to Earth than usual, appearing especially big and bright.

This will be the closest full moon of the year, just 222,043 miles or so away. That’s more than 100 miles closer than the Aug. 1 supermoon.

As a bonus, Saturn will be visible as a bright point 5 degrees to the upper right of the moon at sunset in the east-southeastern sky, according to NASA. The ringed planet will appear to circle clockwise around the moon as the night wears on. 

If you missed the month’s first spectacle, better catch this one. There won’t be another blue supermoon until 2037, according to Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project.

Clouds spoiled Masi’s attempt to livestream the supermoon rising earlier this month. He’s hoping for clearer skies this time so he can capture the blue supermoon shining above St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

Weather permitting, observers don’t need binoculars or telescopes — “just their own eyes.” said Masi.

“I’m always excited to admire the beauty of the night sky,” he said, especially when it features a blue supermoon.

University of Iowa Astronomy Professor Casey DeRoo is an expert X-ray astronomy. He explained the rare phenomenon of the blue supermoon.

"The moon gets just a little bit closer than it normally does to Earth," he said. "It gets about 5% closer, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it actually makes for a slightly more dramatic viewing. So the moon appears about 10 to 15% brighter."

The best time to see it tonight is around 10 p.m. when it's low in the horizon, according to DeRoo, who said that positioning creates a sort of optical illusion, making the moon appear larger than it is.

Supermoons in 2023

The first supermoon of 2023 was in July and another was Aug. 1.

The last time two full supermoons graced the sky in the same month was in 2018. It won't happen again until 2037, according to Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project.

The fourth and last will be in September.

The August full moon is traditionally known as the sturgeon moon. That's because of the abundance of that fish in the Great Lakes in August, hundreds of years ago.


DeRoo also was quoted in these TV stories:

KGAN (Cedar Rapids):

The Blue Supermoon will make its appearance Wednesday night and will be the brightest Supermoon of the 2023 lunar calendar.

The Moon will rise around 8 pm, but 10 pm is when it appears the most dramatic in the sky.

Casey DeRoo, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, says this phenomenon occurs when the Moon's orbit is closest to Earth at the same time as a blue moon, meaning the second full moon in the same month.

"It actually will appear quite a bit brighter about 10 to 15% brighter than it usually does, also our eyes tend to play tricks on us when the moon is near the horizon so it actually makes it appear bigger than it is, said Professor DeRoo.

KIMT (Rochester):

You'll have the chance to see a super blue moon tomorrow night. Casey DeRoo, an assistant professor from the University of Iowa, said that it's actually a combination of two natural phenomena. A blue moon is a phenomenon in which you can see a full moon for a second time in a calendar month. A supermoon is a phenomenon in which the moon is about 5% closer and about 10% to 15% brighter than it is during a normal full moon. Also, when the super blue moon is low on the horizon, it might look closer to you than it actually will be.

“This is a chance for us to actually, you know, sit outside, look at the night sky, and think about, you know, our place on Earth, our place in the Cosmos. I personally am filled with a profound sense of, you know, feeling kind of small and yet comforted by that-by that feeling," DeRoo said.

He also said that the super blue moon will be at its prettiest tomorrow between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. He said that you might also be able to see Saturn tomorrow night. He also said that binoculars could help you see more of the super blue moon's surface details and, of course, it will be easier to appreciate the night sky if you're in a darker area.

KCAU (Sioux City): (video only)