Did you just hear there is a super blue moon? Are you desperately trying to catch a glimpse of it like it’s some sort of legendary Pokemon? Breathe. The super blue moon, which will be visible starting at 9:36 p.m. ET on Wednesday, is likely not a one-time opportunity, and it is only the moon.
But a look at the night sky is always worth it (as long as you’re somewhere with a nice view). So here’s a quick guide to this lunar rarity – which is mostly a rarity on the calendar, but also something to dazzle with.
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A blue moon is just a second moon in a calendar month. As the name suggests, only one full moon normally fits in a month, but the 29.5-day length of the lunar cycle makes blue moons every two or three years inevitable. You may also not remember that last August 1st was a full moon (which… Also a supermoon). There will be another one on Wednesday evening. That’s the “blue” part – and no, it’s no bluer than the moon at any other time of the year.
Since super moons are less rare than blue moons – they happen about once every quarter – this is the third of this year and the second of August. We get a supermoon when a full moon coincides with the moon’s “perigee,” or the closest point in its orbit. When super, the moon appears 14 percent larger and brighter than an ordinary full moon, with a stronger tidal pull.
The last time this happened was in 2018 – though there was also a lunar eclipse around that time, so you may recall everyone scrambling to see the “super blue blood moon.” The next time this will happen is in 2037.
How to see the super blue moon
Looking up at night after 9:36 p.m. ET in the US on Wednesday, there is no celestial object easier to spot than the moon. However, if you’re having trouble, note that depending on your location at the time it’s looking over the horizon, it’s likely to be roughly to the north or north-west. Additionally, on Wednesday evening, you may notice a bright, star-like object to the upper right of the Moon. This is the planet Saturn.
If you need extra help finding the moon, stargazing apps with augmented reality capabilities are a great solution (this author uses SkySafari). These apps take the guesswork out of the game by overlaying your field of view with a detailed, annotated view of the night sky. NASA, on the other hand, recommends binoculars for lunar observation so that you can see the bumps and craters.