How to see August’s blue supermoon – your only chance for 14 years

The best time to look for this rare event – and what you’ll be able to see.

Have you ever seen a blue supermoon? On the night of August 30, you’ll have the chance to see this rare event. We’re all hoping for clear skies, because if we miss it, there won’t be another one for almost 14 years.

But what is a blue supermoon? Is it blue, and when is the best time to see it?

We’ve got the advice from the experts, and reveal why the moon is about to become so important to every single one of us.

A supermoon behind the treesCredit: Shutterstock /boscorelli
A rare blue supermoon will occur at the end of August

What is a blue supermoon?

We’ve all heard the saying “once in a blue moon”, so we know how rare it is. But what is a blue supermoon and what makes it extra special?

Dr Affelia Wibisono, astronomer at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, explains that it’s a combination of two rare astronomical events occuring at the same time.

“We’ve got two things going on at the end of this month,” she told us.

“Firstly, we have a super full moon, which is what happens when the full moon coincides with when the moon is at (or very close to) its nearest point to the Earth. Super full moons appear very slightly bigger and brighter compared to a ‘normal’ full moon.

“This is also the second full moon in August, which makes it a blue moon. However, this is a misnomer, as the moon will not take on a blue hue and will instead retain its usual white colour.”

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How rare is a blue supermoon?

Blue moons and supermoons are rare, but the combination of the two is even more noteworthy – the next blue supermoon won’t be for almost 14 years.

“The next blue moon will be on May 31 2026,” Dr Wibisono said. “But that will be a micro full moon, which is the opposite to the supermoon.

“This happens when the full moon occurs when it is at its furthest point from the Earth. It will appear slightly smaller and dimmer compared to a ‘normal’ full moon.

“The next ordinary supermoon will be on the September 18 2024, and then you’ll have to wait until January 31 2037 for the next blue supermoon.”

When is the best time to see the blue supermoon?

The blue supermoon will rise at 8pm on Wednesday August 30 and set just after 6am the following morning. The moon will be at its peak at 2.35am on August 31, which is the moment the near side of the moon is completely illuminated by the sun.

“However, the moon will not look noticeably different during the night, so the best time to see it will depend on the observer’s local conditions,” Dr Wibisono explained.

A supermoon pictured in the night sky with the outline of trees visible.Credit: Shutterstock / Fernando Astasio Avila
The blue supermoon will be at its peak at 2.35am on August 31

What can you see on a blue supermoon?

On August 30, the moon will appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when it is furthest away from the Earth. It will be at 222,043 miles (357,344km) compared to its furthest point of 252,088 miles (405,696km).

With the moon so big in our skies, it’s a great opportunity to grab a pair of binoculars and give it a closer look. For a better view, visit one of the best places in the UK for stargazing.

Dr Wibisono explained that you can see many of the moon’s natural features, but if you’ve got a pair of binoculars to hand, you’ll see even more on the surface of the Earth’s only natural satellite. These include:

  • The low-lying and flat, dark maria (lowlands). These can easily be seen with the naked eye against the bright mountainous terrae (highlands).
  • Large craters, such as Tycho Crater – one of the most prominent craters on the moon. The Tycho Crater is 53 miles (85km) in diameter and was formed about 108 million years ago.

Dr Wibisono says: “Binoculars will reveal more details on the crater, such as its slumped inner walls and the 2km [one-and-a-quarter-mile] tall mountain at the centre of the crater’s floor.

“You’ll also be able to see other smaller craters and mountain ranges around the moon’s surface.”

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Why is the moon suddenly so important?

Geopolitical and astropolitical expert Tim Marshall is author of the best-selling book The Future of Geography – about the new political space race.

He explained that the moon is set to become the centre of attention for all of us. For the first time since 1972, when we look up at the moon a man and a woman will soon be looking right back at us.

“Get the popcorn ready,” he told Saga Exceptional. “The USA plans to have a woman and a man walking on the Moon in 2026. It’s part of the Artemis Accords mission, to which the UK is a signatory.”

India landed a robot on the moon on August 23 and China expects to have its astronauts taking their first lunar steps before 2030.

Marshall added that this new interest isn’t just about space exploration, it’s the start of a space gold rush to try to capitalise on what’s thought to be on the moon’s surface.

“We can expect bases to be built on the moon by the early 2030s,” he said.

“This is because of the huge potential for mining the metals that we need for renewable energy technology on Earth – which are now thought to be at the lunar south pole.

“The economic model of making that profitable is unproven, but that won’t stop companies and countries from trying.”

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Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Updated:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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