August Is Ending With a Super New Moon

Allexxandar/iStock via Getty Images
Allexxandar/iStock via Getty Images

Look up early in the morning of Friday, August 30, 2019, and you won't see anything but an especially dark sky. That's because the moon is entering the "new" phase of its cycle, meaning it's not visible to the naked eye. Even though you can't see it, this upcoming super new moon marks one of the biggest lunar events of the year, and its effects on the tides will be felt around the world, Forbes reports.

What is a super new moon?

The moon follows a 29.5-day lunar cycle, starting with a new moon and ending with a full moon. As the body orbits the Earth, it moves in and out of our planet's shadow, appearing more or less visible each night. A new moon occurs when the moon falls between the Earth and the sun and its near side is totally dark.

New moons happen regularly, but this upcoming event is special. It's also a supermoon. A moon becomes "super" when it reaches its perigee, or the point in its orbit closest to Earth. On Friday night, the supermoon and the new moon will coincide.

Typically, supermoons are a chance to see the moon at its largest in the night sky, but that won't be the case this week. The super new moon will make its presence known in other ways. Tides are always strongest when the moon is closest to Earth. When the moon enters its new phase, it will have the extra gravitational pull of the sun literally backing it up, resulting in super-charged "king" tides across the half of the Earth it's facing. The teamed-up forces of both celestial bodies will be so strong that the normally placid River Severn in the UK could flow backwards and see 32-foot waves.

When is the super new moon?

The new moon will reach its darkest stage at 6:37 a.m. EST on Friday, August 30. If you go out expecting to see the moon, you'll be disappointed, but the dark sky will create optimal conditions for stargazing. Here are some of the best places on Earth to look at the stars.

[h/t Forbes]

Mark Your Calendars: The Lyrid Meteor Shower Is Coming

Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images
Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images

If you've grown tired of Zoom meetings, Netflix parties, and livestreams, take a break from staring at your screens to look up at the sky. Starting in April, the Lyrid meteor shower will make its annual appearance. Here's what you need to know to see the spectacle from wherever you're quarantined.

What are the Lyrids?

With written evidence of the event dating back to China around 690 BCE, the Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers on record. The light show occurs when our planet passes through the tail of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, causing its rocky debris to burn up in the atmosphere.

From Earth, the Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which rises above the northeastern horizon after dusk, and the meteor shower borrows its name from the constellation. The Lyrids aren't as active as some other annual showers, usually maxing out at just 20 shooting stars per hour on peak nights. But patient spectators are sometimes rewarded: The event has been known to have outbursts of up to 100 meteors in a single hour. Such surges are rare and random, so all sky-gazers can do is look up at peak times and hope to get lucky.

How to See the Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids start every year around April 16, but your best chance at seeing them comes later in the month. Late April 21 through early April 22, the meteor shower is predicted to reach peak activity. Following that period, the shooting stars from the shower will become less frequent before finally fizzling out around April 25.

The Lyrids may be easier to spot in 2020 than in recent years. Since businesses closed and people started sheltering in their homes, there has been a slight dip in light and air pollution. Those darker, clearer skies will create better conditions for spotting shooting stars in some parts of the country. As always, waiting until skies are darkest—in the hours around midnight, typically—is the best way to boost your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible.

A Super Pink Moon—the Biggest Supermoon of 2020—Is Coming In April

April's super pink moon will be extra big and bright (but still white).
April's super pink moon will be extra big and bright (but still white).
jakkapan21/iStock via Getty Images

The sky has already given us several spectacular reasons to look up this year. In addition to a few beautiful full moons, we’ve also gotten opportunities to see the moon share a “kiss” with Venus and even make Mars briefly disappear.

In early April, avid sky-gazers are in for another treat—a super pink moon, the biggest supermoon of 2020. This full moon is considered a supermoon because it coincides with the moon’s perigee, or the point in the moon’s monthly orbit when it’s closest to Earth. According to EarthSky, the lunar perigee occurs on April 7 at 2:08 p.m. EST, and the peak of the full moon follows just hours later, at 10:35 p.m. EST.

How a supermoon is different.

Since the super pink moon will be closer to Earth than any other full moon this year, it will be 2020’s biggest and brightest. It’s also the second of three consecutive supermoons, sandwiched between March’s worm moon and May’s flower moon. Because supermoons only appear about 7 percent bigger and 15 percent brighter than regular full moons, you might not notice a huge difference—but even the most ordinary full moon is pretty breathtaking, so the super pink moon is worth an upward glance when night falls on April 7.

The meaning of pink moon.

Despite its name, the super pink moon will still shine with a normal golden-white glow. As The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, April’s full moon derives its misleading moniker from an eastern North American wildflower called Phlox subulata, or moss pink, that usually blooms in early April. It’s also called the paschal moon, since its timing helps the Catholic Church set the date for Easter (the word paschal means “of or relating to Easter”).

[h/t EarthSky]

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