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Saturn, a meteor shower, and the last supermoon of 2022 will share the celestial stage this weekend


By Sarah Gill
11th Aug 2022

Unsplash

Saturn, a meteor shower, and the last supermoon of 2022 will share the celestial stage this weekend

The last supermoon of 2022 — the ‘Sturgeon’ moon — will be visible alongside Saturn at 2:35am Friday morning, with the Perseid meteor shower peaking in the early hours of Saturday.

This weekend, skies will be rewarding stargazers far and wide as the biggest, brightest, and final supermoon of 2022 rises. Visible from 2.35am on Friday morning, this ‘Sturgeon’ moon got its name from the Algonquin tribes because it was found that larger fish were more easily caught at this time of year.

According to NASA, that’s not all we’re in store for this weekend: Saturn is also on track to make an appearance. Nearly at its brightest for the year, the planet will rise with the supermoon at the same part of the sky and be noticeable to the naked eye at about 30% more illuminated than when the moon is at its farthest point from Earth.

Making up the solar trifecta is the Perseit meteor shower, which only happens once a year as the Earth passes through the remains of the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which is a body that flies through the inner solar system, leaving behind debris that lingers on.

Peaking in the early hours of Saturday, up to 150 shooting stars are set to flash across the sky per hour. Considered one of the best and brightest meteor showers of the year, there’s even the possibility of seeing fireballs and meteors with long trains.

So, what is a supermoon?

A term that was coined by Astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979, he described a ‘supermoon’ as: “a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.” This point of perigee (the point in the orbit of the moon or a satellite at which it is nearest to the Earth) must be within 90% to be considered a full supermoon.

The moon illusion

If you were in any doubt about staying up late to see these phenomenal scenes, allow me to introduce you to something known as the ‘moon illusion’.

When the moon is at its peak, the actual size of the so-called supermoon is no larger than usual. However, when it rises and sets on the horizon, it creates an illusion wherein all the objects surrounding it make it look bigger by comparison. Trees and buildings are dwarfed by its seemingly enormous stature, but the only thing that’s making it appear so much larger than life is our own brains.

Hours can be lost staring into the night sky on any old evening, so this weekend make sure to get out and look up, because it’s sure to be nothing short of incredible.

You can also watch it shine above Rome’s historic skyline on the Space.com livestream.