Keep your eyes on the skies! For many Michiganders and astronomy fans around the nation, 2023 has been one of the most unique and best years for supermoons.
July brought the first of four supermoons — the Buck Moon. And the beginning of August brought the Sturgeon Moon. The Blue Moon supermoon in Michigan will be visible on August 30, 2023, (the celestial orb on August 31, 2023), and the final moon will appear in the early morning on September 29, 2023, as the Harvest Moon.
Michiganders will see perhaps one of the rarest sights at the end of August — a full moon, a supermoon, and a blue moon in one. In some circles, it’s being referred to as a super blue moon! The U.S. Naval Observatory estimates this rare supermoon will rise at 9:35 p.m. Eastern Time.
What Is a Supermoon?
A name like “supermoon” sounds impressive, and depending on your point of view, it just might be.
A supermoon is given such an impressive name because, when one occurs, the moon shines brighter and looks larger in the sky — about 14% bigger than when it sits farthest from Earth.
TIP: A good way to think about it is the difference in size between a nickel and a quarter.
The science behind it is as follows: It refers to points in time when the orbit of the moon is closest to Earth during a full moon.
The moon orbits Earth in an eclipse pattern, which brings it both farther from and closer to Earth as it rotates.
The farthest point of this eclipse is called the apogee and sits more than 250,000 miles from Earth. The closest point to Earth in the eclipse is called the perigee and sits roughly 225,000 miles from Earth.
At times when a full moon appears at the closest point — the perigee — the moon is larger and brighter than a normal full moon, thus creating the supermoon.
The term was coined by astronomers in 1979, and the pair of supermoons enjoyed during these warm summer nights this August are a reminder of the wonders of the universe.
What Is a Super Blue Blood Moon?
In everyday language, the term “once in a blue moon” is used to mean not in a long time.
Also, blue moons have been immortalized in film and music — It’s the name of a town in Kentucky, the nickname of former Major League pitcher Johnny Odom, and even a popular Midwest ice cream flavor.
In astronomy, a blue moon is a favorite among stargazers and dark sky enthusiasts because it means a second full moon has occurred in a single month. It refers to the third full moon in a single season too.
But, is the moon really blue? Well, it kind of depends.
As the phrase is typically used today, a full blue moon doesn’t have much to do with the actual color of the moon. What is true, however, is that a moon that’s bluish in appearance can happen under certain atmospheric conditions, such as during volcanic eruptions.
Blue moons are usually the same color as other full moons. The only exception is during lunar eclipses when the moon can turn red.
Why Is It Called the Sturgeon Moon?
The Farmer’s Almanac has names for each of the full moons that occur during the year, including the Pink Moon, the Flower Moon, the Strawberry Moon, and many more.
The August full moon is known as the Sturgeon Moon and is also known as the Red Moon, the Corn Moon, and the Dog Moon.
It is named as such because of the plentiful amounts of fish found in Michigan’s Great Lakes hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and the Native American tribes that fished for them found them easier to catch in the late summer.
The sturgeon, known for its prehistoric-looking appearance, is one of the oldest fish species in the Great Lakes and can live for as many as 150 years. It can grow up to 8 feet long and as heavy as 300 pounds.
How Often Do Supermoons Happen?
The moon’s orbit around Earth takes about 29.5 days, just a hair shy of the length of the average calendar month.
Eventually, those gaps add up so that a full moon occurs at the beginning of a month and the end of a month — the second of which is known as a blue moon.
Typically, a blue moon occurs about once every 33 months. Looking ahead, that means they occur about seven times every 19 years and about 41 times in a century.
An even rarer occurrence is when two blue moons occur in a calendar year. This happens about four times per century.
When Will the Next Blue Moon Happen?
There are two methods used to calculate blue moons.
One is seasonal, which means feature blue moons will occur on Aug. 19, 2024, May 20, 2027, Aug. 24, 2029, Aug. 21, 2032, and May 22, 2035.
Fans of this particular moon phase will have to wait until May 2026 to see the next blue moon occur twice a month. After that, the next blue moon will happen on Dec. 31, 2028.
The next Super Blue Moon won’t occur until 2037!
Don’t Miss Your Chance to See the Michigan Blue Moon Supermoon
If you miss August’s blue supermoon, you’ll have to wait nine years for your next chance. So, grab your binoculars and your camera, and keep your eyes peeled to the night sky for a glimpse of the beautiful phenomena.