Friday July 23, 2021, 2:40 p.m. – Ready for a treat? A full moon, two bright planets and maybe even streaked meteors put on a show in the sky tonight.
July’s full moon rises as the sun sets on Friday, but it won’t be the only one.
If your time permits tonight, step outside to see the Full Moon, two luminous planets, plus a possible bonus from the Perseid meteor shower.
Read more: Why is the super moon so fascinating to us?
WHAT IS A “BUCK” MOON?
According to Nasa, Maine Farmer’s Almanac attributes the name “Buck Moon” to the Algonquin peoples of the northeastern United States.
“Early summer is normally when new deer antlers come out of their foreheads in velvety fur coverings,” they wrote. “They also called it the Thunder Moon because of the frequent thunderstorms in early summer.”
This graph collects all relevant data on each Full Moon of 2021, including their popular names, whether it is a “super” or “micro” Moon, a perigee or a peak of the Full. Moon, and if they are remarkable in another way (Blue Moon or Harvest Moon). Credit: NASA Science Visualization Studio / Scott Sutherland
In some parts of Europe, the July full moon is also known as the hay moon or mead moon. In India, Nepal and Bhutan, those of the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions call it Guru Purnima (Guru Full Moon), which is a time to honor spiritual and academic gurus.
“For Theravada Buddhists,” says NASA, “this full moon is Asalha Puha, also known as Dharma Day or Esala Poya, an important festival celebrating Buddha’s first sermon. Like Waso’s full moon day. (the fourth month of the traditional Burmese lunisolar calendar), this marks the start of the annual three-month Buddhist retreat called Vassa. “
NOT ALONE IN THE SKY
This Full Buck Moon won’t be alone when it crosses the night sky.
The July 23 full moon has two bright companions in the sky. Credit: Stellarium / Scott Sutherland
When you look at the Full Moon tonight, take a look just to its left and you will see two bright “stars”. Depending on how much light pollution you have in your sky, these might be the only two stars you can see (although the one closer to the Moon might be a bit harder to see). These two “stars” are the largest planets in our solar system: Jupiter and Saturn. Each will reach their “opposition” with Earth (being exactly on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun) in August. However, they are still easily visible most nights this summer.
In addition, there is also a special bonus for this view. We have now been in the annual Perseid meteor shower for a week. Although we only see 10-20 meteors per hour from the Perseids right now (so maybe 1 every 5 minutes or so), they can still be quite spectacular. They can even appear as very bright fireballs that cross the night sky. Viewers away from city lights or having a suburban backyard sheltered from streetlights have a better chance of seeing these meteors. For best results, allow yourself about 20 minutes to let your eyes adjust to the dark.
Watch below: Out of This World – Meteors and Moons! Keep an eye on the sky this summer
FOUR FULL MOON?
With each of our four seasons lasting around 3 months and typically one full moon per month, you can expect there to always be three full moons each season. However, our astronomical seasons do not correspond perfectly to our calendar months. For example, summer started on June 20 and ends on September 22. So technically the overlap of about a week at the start means the season spans 4 months. So if their timing is right, you can see four full moons in one season.
As it turns out, 2021 is one of those years when this happens. This first summer full moon takes place on June 24. Then the next three full moons are July 24, August 22, and September 20.
With four full moons this season, that means the third of them – August 22 – is a blue moon. In this case, it is the Blue Sturgeon Moon (or “Blue Corn Moon” if you follow some native lunar traditions).
The Four Full Moons of 2021. Credit: NASA Science Visualization Studio / Scott Sutherland
A “seasonal blue moon” occurs every few years. The last was on May 18, 2019, when we saw four full moons in the spring of that year. The next seasonal blue moon, after this year, will be on August 19, 2024, when we will again see a summer with four full moons.
There is also another type of Blue Moon. While not the original definition of Blue Moon, these days we also apply that title to the second of two full moons that occur in the same calendar month. The last time we saw one was in October 2020. Next time it will be in August 2023.
THE ILLUSION OF THE CRAZY MOON
Seeing the full moon at any time of the night is a spectacular sight. However, go out right after moonrise or just before moonset for what is usually an exceptional treat. It’s not something the Moon itself does, however. Instead, it’s due to a little trick in our mind known as The illusion of the moon.
There are times when the Moon actually feels bigger to us, such as during a super moon, when the Moon is physically thousands of miles closer to Earth than usual. There are other times, however, when we thought it looks bigger.
When our eyes observe the world around us, our brain knows from experience that objects close to us tend to appear larger and sharper. In contrast, distant objects tend to be tiny and blurry. From there, he also knows that for a distant object to appear in focus, it has to be very large.
This close-up of Harvest Moon was taken in Calgary, AB on September 13, 2019. Credit: Siv Heang
So when we see a bright full moon suspended, crisp and clear in the sky above the horizon, it is contrasted by all the objects on the ground, which appear smaller and blurrier the closer they are to. the horizon. This combination confuses the brain. To compensate, the brain interprets the Full Moon as being much larger than it actually is. To be clear, the Moon is certainly much larger than any object on the horizon (it is 3,474 km in diameter), but this “illusion” gives us the impression that the Moon is huge!
Look up into the sky closer to the middle of the night, and the Moon will be way overhead. Usually, this will be the only thing we will see, other than the stars and maybe a few planets. At this point, the brain is focused solely on the Moon, and without the other objects in the field of view to complicate matters, it is free to simply “see” its actual size.
This enlarged image of the full snow moon was captured in Salisbury, New Brunswick on February 9, 2020, and uploaded to the UGC gallery on MétéoMédia. Credit: Darlene MacLeod / Smith
We do, however, have a few tips that can negate the Moon illusion.
For the first, we don’t need technology. Go out just after sunset and find the Moon near the horizon. Extend your arm towards her and cover the Moon with your thumb or even your pinky finger. Note the size of the Moon in relation to the number in question, and keep that in mind. Maybe even take a picture of it, if you like. Later that night, observe the Moon again when it is high in the sky. It may look smaller than when you saw it earlier, but repeat the step to cover it with your thumb or finger. Compare it with what you’ve seen before, and you’ll find that the Moon is in fact exactly the same size at both times.
However, technology can help us. When the Moon is low over the horizon, pull out your cell phone, turn on your camera, and point it at the Moon. Note: It is possible that the Moon illusion is still working on us when we look at a photo or video. This is because the brain will make the same judgments of distance, blur, and size as watching a “live” scene. Yet directly comparing what we are seeing in the sky at that time to what is shown on our tiny cell phone screen can help put things in perspective. Plus, you can also take some photos to upload to MétéoMédia’s UGC gallery while you’re at it!