Skip to main content

Last supermoon of the year — the 'Sturgeon moon' rises tonight (Aug. 11)

The July full moon rises over Rome, Italy in summer 2022.
The July full moon rises over Rome, Italy in summer 2022. (Image credit: Copyright Gianluca Masi)

As summer slips into autumn and nights begin to grow longer, the final supermoon of the year will make a big splash Thursday (Aug. 11).

Nicknamed the "Sturgeon Moon," August's full moon peaks around 9:36 p.m. EDT on Thursday (0136 a.m. GMT on Friday) — although the moon will appear bright and full on Wednesday and Friday night (Aug. 10 and Aug. 12) as well. If you don't have a clear view from home, you can watch the supermoon rise over Rome thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project (opens in new tab). Their live stream begins Friday (Aug. 12) morning at 1:30 a.m. ET (05:30 UT) and will be available to watch on their website anytime after.

Most publications consider this a supermoon, meaning the full moon occurs while the moon is nearest its closest point to Earth, also known as perigee, during the current orbit. The Sturgeon Moon will appear within 90% of perigee, making it a supermoon by most scientific definitions. (Some publications put specific distance or time constraints on supermoons, meaning the Sturgeon Moon may not fit the bill for every publication.) Supermoons can appear larger and up to 16% brighter in the sky than the average full moon, according to timeanddate.com.

Related: Blood Supermoon Lunar Eclipse wows skywatchers around the world (photos)

The Sturgeon Moon will be the fourth supermoon in a row, following the Buck Moon in July, the Strawberry Moon in June and the Flower Moon (which also featured a total lunar eclipse) in May. August's full moon will be the final supermoon of the year, according to the Farmer's Almanac.

Why the fishy nickname? The Maine Farmer's Almanac began printing Native American names for full moons in the 1930s, according to NASA, and these names have become commonplace today. The Sturgeon Moon's name comes to us from the Algonquin tribes of what is now eastern North America, as large sturgeon fish were more easily caught in the Great Lakes at this time of year.

Sadly, the full moon will wash out another cosmic spectacle that's also happening tonight — the peak of the Perseid meteor shower

Every year in late July and early August, Earth passes through the rocky debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last swooped by our planet in 1992. As tiny rocks left by the comet fall through Earth's atmosphere, skywatchers can see a parade of shooting stars (actually fiery-hot meteors) in the northern sky. Typically, viewers can see up to 60 meteors an hour during the peak. This year, the moon's bright light will diminish that number to about 10 to 20 per hour, according to NASA (opens in new tab).

The full moon occurs about once a month when the sun, Earth and moon align on an invisible 180-degree line. The moon's orbit is about 5 degrees different from Earth's, so it is usually a little higher or lower than Earth's shadow, enabling the sun's rays to illuminate the side facing Earth.

The next full moon peaks on Saturday, Sept. 10. That moon is typically called the Harvest Moon.

Originally published on Live Science on Aug. 8 and updated with information about watching live online and the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 11.

Brandon Specktor
Senior Writer

Brandon has been a senior writer at Live Science since 2017, and was formerly a staff writer and editor at Reader's Digest magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.