There will be a lunar spectacle for Leicestershire stargazers to witness next week when a ‘Super Flower Moon’ rises high into the night sky.
The night of Wednesday, May 26, will be an occasion for anyone inclined to take in an enjoy the astronomical wonder – weather permitting, of course.
It will be the biggest and brightest full moon of the year and, fingers crossed, a sight to behold.
A supermoon is when the full moon is closest to the earth – roughly 225,804 miles away – while a flower moon is the name given to a full moon in springtime.
A lunar eclipse called the Super Flower Blood Moon will also be visible around the world – but, unfortunately not in Leicestershire and the UK, though we should be able to see the Super Flower Moon.
The rare astronomical event, where a supermoon coincides with a lunar eclipse, causes the moon to appear blood red.
People who live on the west coast of the United States, Australia, the Far East and other parts of the Pacific rim will get to see this striking phenomenon.
But the Super Flower Moon that will be visible in the night sky over the city and county will be a spectacular sight nonetheless, according to Ann Bonell, president of the Leicester Astronomical Society – based at the National Space Centre.
“We’re not going to see a blood moon, which refers to a total eclipse during a full moon, in the UK, unfortunately,” she said.
“They will in other parts of the world – just not here.”
“But the so-called Super Flower Moon will be spectacular to see all the same.”
She added: “It is not strictly an astronomical term, of course, but is the name given in America to the closest full moon to the Earth in May and springtime, when all the flowers are coming into bloom.”
A lunar eclipse, as opposed to a solar eclipse, occurs when our planet moves between the sun and the moon, blocking light to the moon.
As a result, the moon, which normally glows pale grey or silver, will appear to change colour.
A solar eclipse, on the other hand, is when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth causing, in a total eclipse, the sun to disappear from sight.
The moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptic rather than perfectly circular so at times it will be closer to the Earth and, as a result, appear larger.
“The Super Flower Moon will appear larger and brighter in the night sky but, for most people, they won’t notice unless they are on the lookout,” said Ann.
She added: “The best time to see it will be at about 9.35pm on Wednesday when the moon will rise over the horizon in the south east, so for people in Leicestershire that will be looking towards Northamptonshire.”
Ann said that the reason the moon looks larger against the horizon is because the shape of the earth, along with buildings and trees offer the viewer some perspective.
“It’s an optical illusion really,” she said.
“It is just as large when high in the night sky but just doesn’t appear to be,” she said.
“A simple experiment to see this is to collect a selection of stones or pebbles and find one that, with your arm outstretched, fits the outline of the moon.
“Once the moon has risen, if you do this again with the same stone the same thing will happen, only to the naked eye the moon will appear smaller.”
Usually, the best place to watch the stars will be in a rural area, away from light pollution.
It may be the case with a Super Flower Moon, but not necessarily so, according to Ann.
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“Places like the Bradgate Park and Beacon Hill areas are normally good but because the moon is so large and easy to see, you’ll be able to see the Super Flower Moon from pretty much anywhere,” she said.
“The effect may be better from one of the more elevated and rural parts of the county but, as long there’s not thick cloud, you should be able to see enjoy the sight in Leicester and in the towns, despite streetlights.”
Ann intends to watch it from her home in Leicester Forest East.
“One tip I’d say if you’re watching it from your house is to watch it from an upstairs window because of the slight elevation.
“But you’ll still be able to see if from street level – and you might find your neighbours are doing the same thing so you can have a good chat about it.”