MOSCOW, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - This year’s brightest supermoon will light up the night sky on August 10, while the Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak next Tuesday.
This month’s supermoon is expected to be 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than usual, according to the US Naval Observatory.
The scientific term for the bright lunar phenomenon is “perigee moon”. It occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth on its orbit. At that moment the moon is 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) closer to the Earth than when it is furthest away from the planet. That happens quite often, on average supermoons occur every 13.5 months.
However, this summer skywatchers are treated to three supermoons in quick succession. The first one was visible on July 12, and the last one is expected to occur on September 9, according to NASA.
Supermoons appear to look unusually large due to the so called “moon illusion,” which occurs when the moon is near the horizon, NASA said in a press release. “When the Moon illusion amplifies a perigee Moon, the swollen orb rising in the east at sunset can seem super indeed,” NASA stated. This makes the moonrise the best time to observe the event.
Fortunately, skywatchers don’t have to find a location away from big cities and avoid the so called light pollution to observe the supermoon. Whether it is visible or not depends strictly on the weather.
“Normally, when cool stuff is happening in the night sky, we miss it because of the light pollution,” said Shawn Domagal-Goldman, research space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, as cited by the Washington Post. “But there’s no such thing as too much light pollution to see the moon. All you need is nighttime and a clear sky. If you live in a city and want to share in the awe of the cosmos, this is the astronomical event for you.”
The August 10 supermoon is set to rival the annual Perseid meteor shower, another highly anticipated celestial event of the year. However, the Perseids will be less visible on the moonlit sky. “Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts," explained Dr Bill Cooke from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, as quoted by the Telegraph.
Nevertheless, the Perseid meteor shower is “rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen despite the moonlit sky background,” said Tony Markham, director of the UK Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA). “You can minimise the effect of the moonlight by observing with your back to the Moon – possibly viewing the Cassiopeia/Cepheus/Ursa Minor area. If possible, keep the Moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building,” he stated, according to the SPA official website.
The annual Perseid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the cloud of dust left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. The particles hit the atmosphere lighting up the night sky with flashes and leaving bright trails behind. One can often observe over 100 meteors an hour during Perseids’ peak around the second week of August.
The two celestial events, supermoon and the Perseids, rarely coincide. The astronomical phenomena will not occur at the same time for the next two decades, so be sure to find your comfortable observing spot and enjoy the view.