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This astronomy blog was written by AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada.
Astronomers and stargazers are in for a treat this upcoming weekend with two big celestial events taking place: a ‘Blue Moon’ and the opposition of Mars.
You have probably noticed how bright Mars has become in the evening sky. It will be at its brightest in two years Sunday night. Meanwhile, it will pair with the full moon Saturday night!
On Sunday, Mars will reach opposition, meaning that that Earth will be passing directly between Mars and the sun. It has been and will continue to be brighter than any star in the sky for the next couple of months.
According to EarthSky, by the time Mars reaches opposition, it will have quadrupled in brightness since the beginning of April. Additionally, it will shine nearly 80 times brighter than it does when the planet is at its faintest.
Even if clouds block your view of Mars on Sunday night, it should remain bright for several weeks before it slowly and steadily becomes faint.
About a week after opposition, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth in over 10 years.
At a distance of 46.8 million miles (75.3 million km), this will be the closest the Red Planet has been to our planet since 2003!
Although this is the closest the planets have been in years, it does not mean that Mars will be significantly larger in the night sky as some social media hoaxes might suggest. While it is true that Mars does give off a red glow in the night sky, you will not be able to see the planet like you would the Moon.
May’s Full Moon goes by several names, including the Full Flower Moon, the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon. But this year, it will also go by the title of a Blue Moon.
A Blue Moon typically occurs once every few years (hence the term ‘once in a Blue Moon') and is commonly the name of the second full moon in a calendar month. However, this weekend’s Blue Moon gained its name a different way.
Normally, there are only three full moons in each season, but occasionally there is a season with four full moons. When this happens, like how it is this spring, the third of the four full moons earns the name of a Blue Moon.
Here is what the weather looks like for Saturday night’s Blue Moon:
Despite their name, blue moons are not actually the color blue and will appear their typical color.
The next ‘traditional’ Blue Moon does not occur until Jan. 31, 2018.
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The moon brightens in advance of next week's full moon. The Mars opposition happens on the same day as a lunar eclipse and the peak of a few different meteor showers!
A crystal clear air mass will bring splendid conditions for stargazers across the East Coast of the U.S. Look for the thin crescent moon near Venus this evening, then the Milky Way later at night.