Judging by today’s media coverage, you’d think people had never seen a full moon before. You’d think they’d never seen a supermoon, either. That's a full moon that occurs when the moon is at its perigee—or closest approach to us—just 357,000 km (222,000 miles) from Earth, making it appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than it is. But about 25% of all full moons are super moons, according to NASA, which means we’ve surely all seen them just by looking up at the sky.
But a blue supermoon? That’s an entirely different story. A blue moon is not actually blue at all; that is simply the nickname that’s given to the second full moon that occurs in a month, and the phenomenon does not happen often; just 3% of full moons are also blue moons, according to NASA. The rarest shy show of all occurred last night—and will continue tomorrow (Sept. 1)—when a combination of full moon plus super moon plus blue moon appeared in the southeastern sky. If you miss it, you’ll have to wait a while for the next one: according to NASA, the next blue supermoon will not occur until 2037—and even that’s a bit of a rush job. Typically, blue supermoons occur only once every 20 years or so.
Telescopes, binoculars and naked eyes around the planet turned skyward after the moon rose across time zones last night. NASA did its part to keep the audience growing. “The moon is doing the most: it’s a blue supermoon!” the space agency posted to its 76.2 million followers on X (formerly Twitter). But with a bright, silver, platter like a blue supermoon hanging in the sky, most folks likely didn’t need any reminder it was there.
If you missed the sky-show—and can’t see tonight’s—here’s just a sampling of how last night's sky spectacular looked from around the world.
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Write to Jeffrey Kluger at firstname.lastname@example.org