In 2023, we are experiencing a remarkable year for supermoons here in the Smoky Mountains with four incredible events gracing our night skies. We began the series in July with the Buck Moon, followed by the Sturgeon Moon in early August.
Now, at the end of August, we’re expecting a unique celestial phenomenon – a full moon, a supermoon, and a blue moon all in one, known as the Smoky Mountains Super Blue Moon. This rare spectacle will be visible on the night of August 30, 2023, and it’s a sight you won’t want to miss!
Estimated to rise at 9:35 p.m. EDT on August 30, 2023, this extraordinary occurrence is a testament to the beauty and wonder of our universe.
As we gear up for the grand finale featuring the Harvest Moon in late September, let’s take a closer look at the upcoming super blue moon event.
What Is a Supermoon?
A supermoon occurs when the Moon shines brighter and appears larger in the sky, about 14% bigger compared to when it sits farthest from Earth. This phenomenon happens due to the Moon’s orbit, which brings it both closer and farther away from Earth as it rotates in an eclipse pattern.
There are two key points in the Moon’s orbit around Earth:
- The farthest point, called the apogee, is more than 250,000 miles away from Earth.
- The closest point, called the perigee, sits roughly at 225,000 miles from Earth.
A supermoon occurs when a full moon coincides with the perigee, making the Moon appear larger and brighter than a normal full moon. To grasp the size difference between a supermoon and a regular full moon, think about the difference in size between a nickel and a quarter.
The term “supermoon” was first used by astronomers in 1979, and we continue to be fascinated and reminded of the wonders of the universe during such celestial events.
What Is a Super Blue Moon?
In astronomy, a Super Blue Moon is a special event that combines two lunar phenomena: a Blue Moon and a Supermoon. A Blue Moon typically refers to the occurrence of a second full moon within a single calendar month or the third full moon in a single season.
However, the term “blue” often has little to do with the actual color of the moon—most Blue Moons appear the same color as other full moons. Occasionally, atmospheric conditions, such as volcanic eruptions, can cause the moon to appear bluish in color.
On the other hand, a Supermoon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth (perigee) in its elliptical orbit, resulting in the moon appearing larger and brighter than usual. When both of these events occur simultaneously, we have a Super Blue Moon, which is a relatively rare occurrence.
While Blue Moons are immortalized in popular culture, such as in film, music, and even ice cream flavor names, the main appeal of a Super Blue Moon in the astronomical community is the unique combination of a Supermoon’s larger size and the additional full moon within a given time frame.
How Often Do Supermoons Happen?
We understand that the moon’s orbit around Earth takes approximately 29.5 days, which is slightly shorter than the average calendar month. This difference results in the occasional occurrence of two full moons within a single month—the second of which is called a “blue moon.”
Astrological patterns show that blue moons typically happen once every 33 months. To provide more context, this means that:
- Blue moons occur about 7 times every 19 years
- Within a century, there will be approximately 41 blue moon incidents
- A rarer situation, with two blue moons occurring in a single calendar year, happens around four times per century
When Will the Next Blue Moon Happen?
We can determine the occurrence of the next blue moon using two calculation methods. For those interested in seasonal blue moons, upcoming dates include August 19, 2024, May 20, 2027, August 24, 2029, August 21, 2032, and May 22, 2035.
Don’t Miss Your Chance to See the Super Blue Moon in the Smoky Mountains
We encourage you to seize this rare opportunity, as the next blue supermoon won’t appear for another nine years. Grab your binoculars and cameras, and marvel at the stunning celestial display.