This Sunday is shaping up to be one dramatic astronomical event as a supermoon is scheduled to light up the night sky while coinciding with a meteor shower.
The moon will be at its biggest and brightest in 20 years as it reaches the point in its orbit closest to Earth – known as perigee – at the same time it becomes full as reported by the Telegraph.
Two days later, the Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak – making “fireballs as bright as Jupiter or Venus.”
Given a dark, clear sky in a normal year, it is more likely to see hundreds of meteors an hour during the second week in August.
However, astronomers warned the lunar glare produced by the supermoon might make the meteor shower difficult to see.
Dr. Bill Cooke from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said that “lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts.”
But fear not. The debris stream left by comet Swift-Tuttle, which produces the Perseids, is wide, so the shooting stars may possibly make an appearance before the moon turns full.
Supermoons occur relatively often, typically every 13 months and 18 days, and coincidentally this summer will see three in short succession. An unusually bright full supermooon was visible on July 12, and another is due to appear on September 9.
Sunday’s supermoon promises to be the most dramatic since this is when the moon will be at its closest point to the Earth all year.
Dr. Robert Massey, of the Royal Astronomical Society, said night gazers would “certainly notice the moon will be bigger in the sky compared with normal” and said the most spectacular views in the UK would be from Northern Scotland, where the moon would appear lowest on the horizon.
Tony Markham, director of the Society for Popular Astronomy’s meteor section, said that star gazers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Perseids to stay optimistic.
“The Perseids are rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen despite the moonlit sky background,” he said, writing on the SPA’s website.
“You can minimise the effect of the moonlight by observing with your back to the moon – possibly viewing the Cassiopeia/Cepheus/Ursa Minor area.”
“If possible, keep the moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building.”