August is a time to look up to the skies
Looking for a fun family activity before the school year starts? Leave the bright lights of the District and head to the darkest skies in Maryland. Or head to the beach far away from the lights on the boardwalk. Go somewhere rural with little light, and you’ll be able to catch both the Supermoon known as the Sturgeon moon and the Perseid meteor showers.
What is the Sturgeon Moon?
While a full moon happens during every lunar cycle, there are peak times when nighttime observers will see the Supermoon. A Supermoon occurs when a full moon is within 24 hours of being at its closest point to Earth in its orbit.
According to NASA, the best time to view the celestial phenomenon is at 9:35pm on Thursday, August 12. According to National History Museum, “Supermoon cast about 30% more light on the planet than when the Moon is at its closest."
So while the lunar light helps bring the Supermoon into better view, it will simultaneously overshadow the other celestial event.
Based on the Maine Farmer's Almanac, the August full moon is named the Sturgeon moon by Algonquin tribes that lived in the northeastern United States. The Moon named after the large fish that are more easily caught that same time of year in the Great Lakes. This year the Sturgeon Moon will be the last Supermoon of 2022.
Perseid meteor showers
The Perseid meteor showers are active from July 14 to September 1 this year. However, the peak time to see the Perseids is August 12 to August 13.
In a post by NASA astronomer Bill Cooke while North America generally sees 50 or 60 meteors per hour during an average peak, “…the full Moon will reduce that to 10-20 per hour at best. The Moon is so much brighter than anything else in the night sky, and it will wash out all but the very brightest Perseids as they streak through our atmosphere and burn up far overhead.” Cooke leads the meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The peak time to see the Supermoon is August 12. Unfortunately, because of the brightness of the Moon, it will outshine the meteor shower. Lucky for those interested, the meteor shower is a multi-day event with peak times from August 12 through the 13th. So keep watching the night sky, and you might be able to catch a glimpse of them until September.
The Planetary Society recommends timeanddate.com to find the best viewing times and locations in your area.
Checking out the night sky is a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the last few days of summer. So, where is your favorite place to see the celestial wonders? Let me know in the comments.