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Celebration of Space - August 20, 2021

The Blue Moon obscured by clouds over Ninigret Park by Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Scott MacNeill

The Blue Moon obscured by clouds over Ninigret Park by Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Scott MacNeill

This coming Sunday, August 22, 2021 at 8:02 am the August full moon will occur. We call the August Moon either the Full Green Corn Moon or the Full Sturgeon Moon. Of which, both work for New England. If taking an August drive outside of the urban and suburban areas, you can see where the Green Corn Moon moniker comes from. Consequently, the September full moon is called the Full Corn Moon. The Sturgeon Moon name comes from Native American tribes that would fish for sturgeon in Lake Champlain, which were very prominent during the month of August. But this August’s full moon is also a Blue Moon.

The official definition of a Blue Moon states that the third full moon in a season of four full moons is considered a Blue Moon. Modern times have seen a change in the definition and now also consider the second full moon, in a month with two full moons, a Blue Moon as well. Which is frequently, but not always, the same as the official definition. Considering that the Autumnal Equinox will occur on September 22, 2021 at 3:21 pm, and the September full moon will occur on September 20, 2021 at 7:55 pm, Sunday’s full moon is the third full moon in a season with four full moons, making it an official Blue Moon. But Sunday’s Moon is the only full moon in August 2021. Regardless of definitions, the Moon will not appear blue in hue, but instead will look just like every other full moon.

As a side note, the New England region will quite likely see the arrival of hurricane Henri on Sunday, which will coincide with the full moon. The full moon brings the spring tide, which is more exaggerated than the neap tide that accompanies the crescent intermediate lunar phases. With the storm surge produced by Henri, coupled with the spring tide from the full moon, and the August 17th lunar perigee (when the Moon was closest to us for its current orbital cycle), we could see significant flooding along the New England coast line. This is often referred to as storm tide, and is what made the coastal effects of hurricane Sandy in 2012 so disastrous.

Starting Monday, August 23, 2021, China’s space station – Tiangong will commence visible evening passes over the United States, specifically over the Northeast. Tiangong is not as bright as the International Space Station (ISS) as it is not fully completed and is currently made up of only the first of three modules. Though not as bright as the ISS, it is still very visible, and well worth a view! Here are a few notable pass times for the coming week:

Mon, Aug 23 at 9:08 pm starting n the SSW, rising to 14° and into, orbital sunset
Wed, Aug 25 at 9:41 pm, starting in the SW, rising to 35°, and into orbital sunset.
Thu, Aug 26 at 9:16 pm, starting in the WSW, rising to 55°, and into orbital sunset.

Orbital sunset occurs when the station orbits into Earth’s shadow. When viewed from Earth, the station appears to quickly fade out of view. From the vantage point of those residing on the station, they experience sunset. Considering that what we see when observing the station pass is just sunlight reflecting off of the station’s labs and solar panels, the station needs to be in direct sunlight for us to see it. Now that Earth is rapidly approaching the Autumnal Equinox, visible passes of satellites over our region will only happen after sunset and before sunrise with overnight passes happening in Earth’s shadow and out of our view.

For daily pass times of Tiangong and other bright satellites, visit the Frosty Drew Daily Satellite Prediction utility.

Scott MacNeill
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Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Aug 20, 2021
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Scott MacNeill's Columns
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