Fireworks won’t be the only exciting display in the night sky from July 2–4.
While July’s full Moon, known as the “Buck Moon,” will become full at 7:38 a.m. Eastern on Monday, July 3, it will be below the horizon for observers in North America. The good news, however, is that the Moon will appear full the nights before and after that.
What makes this full Moon special is that it will be the first of four supermoons this year. That means it will appear about 17 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the faintest Moon of the year, according to NASA.
Why It’s A “Buck Moon”
The Old Farmer’s Almanac uses Moon names from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources.
Male deer, or bucks, shed and regrow their antlers each year. The full Moon in July gets its Buck Moon name from Native American influences because this is the time of the year when bucks’ antlers are growing quickly, The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains.
Why It’s Also A Supermoon
The Moon’s orbit around Earth isn’t circular, it’s elliptical. Although the distance between the Moon and Earth varies throughout the month and even the year, the average distance is 238,855 miles, according to NASA.
Since the Moon has an elliptical orbit, there are times when it is closer to Earth than others. The point in the Moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth is called the perigee. When the Moon is full and it reaches that point, it’s called a supermoon.
Surprisingly, there is no official definition stipulating how close the Moon must be to Earth to be considered a supermoon. Astrologer Richard Nolle first used the term “supermoon” in 1979. In his definition, he explained that a full Moon or a new Moon is a supermoon when it’s within 90 percent of its closest point to Earth, according to EarthSky.
While the average distance from Earth to the Moon is 238,855 miles, on July 3, the Moon will be 224,895 miles from Earth, making it a supermoon, according to EarthSky.
How To See The Buck Supermoon
July’s Buck supermoon will reach peak illumination at 7:38 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, on Monday, July 3, according to Time and Date. Since the Moon will be below the horizon then, you’ll want to make plans to watch it as it rises above the horizon on July 2, 3, and 4.
You can use Time and Date’s Moonrise, Moonset, and Phase Calendar to see the precise time of moonrise in your area.
Although the supermoon will appear larger and brighter because it’s closer to Earth than at other points in its orbit, it will appear even larger as it rises above the horizon due to a phenomenon known as the “Moon illusion.”
The Moon illusion tricks our brains into thinking the Moon appears larger or smaller sometimes. So, when the Moon is high in the sky, for instance, it appears small due to the vast scope of the surrounding sky, NASA explains.
On the other hand, when the Moon is low in the sky and just above the horizon, our brains compare the Moon’s size to other objects on the skyline such as trees and buildings. Compared to those objects, the Moon, of course, seems absolutely enormous.
Finally, since the Moon appears massive when it’s low in the sky and just above the horizon, the best place to see the Buck supermoon will be somewhere with an unobstructed view of the horizon. For example, large fields and parking lots that don’t have trees or buildings blocking the horizon will be good places to see the supermoon at its largest and brightest.
When The Next Supermoon Will Occur
The next supermoon will occur on August 1. Amazingly, the Moon will be even closer to Earth then. On that date, it will only be 222,158 miles from Earth, according to EarthSky.
Be sure to also read our Stargazing content, including: