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August skies to be lit by supermoon and meteor showers

The supermoon may force stargazers to stay up a little later to see meteors to streak across a properly darkened sky.
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 8, 2014 at 11:57 AM

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- A supermoon is the term for a full moon that rises during the portion of the moon's orbit when it comes closest to Earth -- the moon's perigee.

During its perigee, the moon is some 30,000 miles closer to Earth than usual.

Because the moon's perigee happens roughly every 13 months, there are a few supermoons every year, and this summer the Northern Hemisphere features supermoons three months in a row -- one in July, one this weekend and one more in September. The supermoon scheduled to cross the sky on Sunday, August 10 is going to the biggest and brightest of them all.

According to the The U.S. Naval Observatory, this Sunday's supermoon will be 12 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than January's full moon.

That's not all though -- August skies are going to be action-packed. The supermoon will be followed by the Persied meteor shower, which will peak from August 10 to 12. The residual brightness of the full moon may interfere with the ability of skywatchers to catch all the shooting stars, but because the moon currently crests in the afternoon it should set in plenty of time for night owls to get a glimpse the meteor shower amidst the proper amount of darkness.

"The best time to see the showers will be at around 2 a.m.," astronomer Tony Berendsen told ABC News. "Because the moon will be incredibly bright in the earlier evening, the smaller showers will not be a match."

The Persied showers offer some of the best shooting stars of the year. At their peak, they could feature as many as 100 meteors per hour -- each of them a chunk of space debris from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet smashing into the atmosphere as it passes by Earth.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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