WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Stargazers may be in for a treat Sunday, when two celestial shows coincide. One of the year’s brightest meteor showers will occur at the same time as a “supermoon,” so-called because it will appear to be unusually big.
A supermoon occurs when our celestial neighbor is relatively close to Earth. When it’s close and full, the moon appears bigger and brighter than normal. Astronomers call these occurrences “perigee full moon.”
Supermoons are not rare, Sunday’s will be the second of three in a row this year. The first occurred July 12 and the next will be Sept. 9. There were three in a row last year, too. But Sunday’s will be the closest and brightest supermoon of the year.
“Supermoons happen every 13 months and can be expected every year,” said Eric Vandernoot, astronomy and physics professor at Florida Atlantic University. “What is interesting about this one is the timing. It’s doing it at the same hour as the moon becomes maximally full.”
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Such timing won’t occur again until 2034.
For moon watchers and photo hounds, the best time to catch the action is just after sunset as the full moon begins to rise.
Sunday will also see the annual Perseid meteor shower at its peak stages.
“Perseids tend to produce pretty hearty meteors,” said Vandernoot, who added that the best time to watch the shower is early Tuesday.
But experts say the glare from the supermoon will likely wash out its visibility on Sunday. Fortunately, the Perseid debris field is very wide and it takes the Earth a few weeks to travel through it completely.
The next meteor shower, the Leonids, will peak Nov. 17.
Material from The Seattle Times archive is included in this report.