Blue moon over North Georgia

Full moon. Image Credit: NASA

If you step outside on Thursday morning, you’ll get to catch a glimpse of the second full moon of August. Colloquially this is known as a “blue moon”.

No one knows for certain when the term “blue moon” was first used to refer to an extra full moon, but the Maine Farmer’s Almanac used the term for almost a century. For them, the term meant an extra full moon during a quarter (or season) of the year. Generally, you have three full moons a quarter, and the term would refer to a fourth. Then, in 1946, a writer for Sky and Telescope Magazine misunderstood the term and began using it to refer to a second full moon in a month. Thus, the term “blue moon” was born under the modern definition.

A blue moon will rise tonight, August 30, although the clouds from Hurricane Idalia will get in the way. Luckily, skies should clear early Thursday morning, giving us a chance to see this phenomenon for the last time until 2028!

This will be a “supermoon” of sorts since the moon reaches its closest point to Earth just 12 hours before it is full. That said, don’t expect it to look any different than a normal moon. It will be slightly bigger and slightly brighter, but not enough to notice with the naked eye. Despite this, it will still certainly be worth checking out. Unfortunately, this closeness also means higher tides. The beaches along the coasts will see some of their highest tides of the year this week — bad timing with the arrival of Idalia. This combo of king tides and storm surges will create hazardous conditions in coastal areas.

In addition, Saturn will be hanging out nearby. If you head out early Thursday morning, you can catch it just below and left of the full moon (it will be above and right at moonrise tonight).

One other point to note is that if you catch the moon right at moonset Thursday morning, you may be able to take advantage of the “moon illusion.” This occurs when the moon rises or sets behind relatively distant objects such as trees and buildings. The illusion can make the moon appear big enough to almost touch!

Be sure to take a peek at the blue moon on the way to the bus or work on Thursday morning!

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