Attention all astronomy enthusiasts! Prepare for a double celestial delight this month.
Our first spectacle unfolds on Sunday, August 27th, where Saturn will be visible in the night sky. Just four days later, get ready for the second event – the appearance of the rare blue moon.
When to see Saturn?
On Sunday, August 27, 2023, Saturn will be positioned directly opposite the Sun, a phenomenon known as opposition, as Earth orbits between the two. This alignment will cause Saturn to appear larger and more radiant in the sky this weekend.
Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, earns its nickname as the “jewel” of the solar system because of its exquisite rings.
You can view Saturn with your naked eye, as it graces the southeastern horizon at sunset. Its bright yellowish “star-like” gleam will remain visible throughout the night until sunrise. While unassisted viewing won’t unveil its distinctive icy rings, this is the time when Saturn shines its brightest, an impressive feat given its distance of over 800 million miles from our planet.
To enhance your experience, consider using binoculars. These optical tools can intensify Saturn’s golden hue and, depending on the quality of the binoculars, you might even catch a glimpse of its telltale rings, resembling a pair of “ears.” If you’re fortunate to have clear, dark viewing conditions, you might also be able to spot Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, through your binoculars.
The Dubai Astronomy team welcomes you to the Al Thuraya Astronomy Center within Mushrif Park for an evening of celestial observation focused on the fifth planet. The event kicks off at 7:30 pm on August 27, featuring an informative lecture, interactive Q&A session, and a telescope-guided viewing that might even let you capture a snapshot of the planet. Admission is set at Dhs30 for children and Dhs50 for adults.
The second celestial event: Blue Moon
The brightest and biggest supermoon of 2023, known as a Blue Moon, will appear at the end of this month on August 31. This rare event, happening “once in a blue moon,” will light up the night sky.
A Blue Moon is when two full Moons occur in the same calendar month. The first supermoon of this month occurred on August 1. A supermoon happens when the Moon is closest to Earth. In the UAE, residents will have the chance to see both these events combined, creating a Super Blue Moon.
According to NASA, “About 25 per cent of all full Moons are supermoons, but only 3 per cent of full Moons are Blue Moons.”
The time between Super Blue Moons can vary considerably. It could go up to 20 years, but usually they occur every 10 years on average. The next super blue Moon will occur in a pair, in January and March 2037, Nasa says.
Will the moon really be blue?
The answer is no.
Despite its name, this event isn’t called so because the moon will change its color to blue. Instead, it’s termed as such due to the occurrence of two full moons within a 29.5-day period or during the same month in the calendar. A supermoon arises when the moon comes closest to Earth.
For the longest time, nobody knew why the second full Moon occurring in a calendar month was designated as “blue.” One explanation connects it with the word belewe from Old English, meaning, “to betray.” Perhaps, then, the Moon was “belewe” because it betrayed the usual perception of one full Moon per month? That would make sense.
People in the UAE will have an opportunity to observe a blend of these two remarkable occurrences, resulting in a super blue moon. Should you desire expert guidance, various paid events are on offer throughout the UAE. Notably, the Dubai Astronomy Group presents a Blue Moon observation event at the Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre, where ticket prices commence at Dh60 for adults.