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If you miss August's blue supermoon, you'll have to wait 9 years for your next chance

A supermoon on July 3 in Kansas City, Missouri. The next two supermoons of 2023 will take place at the beginning and end of August.
Charlie Riedel
/
AP
A supermoon on July 3 in Kansas City, Missouri. The next two supermoons of 2023 will take place at the beginning and end of August.

The moon will seem extra big and bright and thus be quite a sight this August, with a sturgeon supermoon visible on Tuesday and then a rare blue supermoon coming at the end of the month.

Two of the four supermoon events of 2023 will take place in August, with the first happening on Tuesday. On Aug. 30, there will be a blue supermoon, which won't happen again until 2032. Here's what you need to know so you can catch this summer's lunar double feature.

What is a supermoon?

A perigean full moon, better known as a supermoon, happens when the moon is full during the closest point in its orbit around Earth. This gives its appearance an extra pop, making it look up to 8% bigger and 16% brighter than a typical full moon, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.

According to NASA, the moon's typical orbit ranges between 226,000 and 251,000 miles from Earth, but variances can bring it a bit closer or farther away. Only the closest three or four approaches each year qualify as supermoons. The last one was on July 3.

Up first is the sturgeon supermoon on Tuesday

The sturgeon moon got its name from Native American tribes that found that the giant sturgeons from the Great Lakes were "most readily caught" at this time of the summer, according to Farmer's Almanac. It's also known as a green corn moon, grain moon, flying-up moon, harvest moon, ricing moon, black cherries moon and mountain shadow moon.

This spectacle will hit peak illumination at 2:32 p.m. ET. "That evening, look toward the southeast after sunset to catch a glimpse of the Sturgeon Moon rising," Farmer's Almanac says.

A sturgeon, for non-anglers, is an enormous fish with roots in the Jurassic Period that spends its life — up to 150 years — in both fresh and salt water. The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America, reaching as long as 20 feet and nearly 2,000 pounds, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But most of the sturgeons inhabiting the Great Lakes measure about 6 feet in length and weigh approximately 200 pounds.

The second show is a rare blue supermoon

While the term "supermoon" references the moon's orbit in relation to Earth, a blue moon has to do with frequency, referring to when there's a second full moon in a single calendar month, NASA says. "Blue moon" is also used to describe the third of four full moons in an astrological season.

The moon takes 27.3 days to orbit the Earth, but because of how the sun's light hits the satellite, it takes 29.5 days to complete its lunar cycle from one new moon to the next.

The term "once in a blue moon" is an idiom used to describe a rare but nonetheless recurring event. But according to NASA, blue moons aren't actually all that rare, recurring every two and a half years or so.

A blue supermoon, however, happens far less frequently. According to the website Time and Date, the last blue supermoon was in December 2009, and the next one won't be until August 2032.

This year's blue supermoon will peak at 9:36 p.m. ET on Aug. 30, Farmer's Almanac says, but you can use its moonrise calculator to see when the blue supermoon will be visible in your area.

The end-of-August supermoon will be the biggest and brightest of 2023 because the moon will be "exceptionally close" to Earth at 222,043 miles, according to Farmer's Almanac, nearly 17,000 miles closer than average.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.