Supermoon cum lunar eclipse to make for a special Mid-Autumn Festival

A supermoon over Portugal last month. It marks the point at which the moon and the earth are closest to each other.
A supermoon over Portugal last month. It marks the point at which the moon and the earth are closest to each other.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

HONG KONG • This year's Mid-Autumn Festival on the Chinese calendar is also a special one in the cosmos. In a rare phenomenon, there will be a supermoon and a lunar eclipse at the same time during the festival, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The festival is a three-day traditional celebration that starts on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

This year, the festival begins officially on Sept 27.

A supermoon occurs when the moon reaches the point where it is at the closest possible distance to the earth. This causes the moon's diameter to look up to 14 per cent bigger, according to National Aeronatics and Space Administration.

The last time that a supermoon lunar eclipse took place was in 1982 and the next will be seen only in 2033.

Six supermoons are expected to shine above the earth this year, but this month's will be the closest to the earth and has a special significance for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Tradition has it that a big, bright moon represents the unity of families celebrating the event.

However, local star-gazing enthusiasts and revellers may not be able to observe the lunar eclipse taking place because it will be visible only from North or South America on Sept 27.

What's more, while the moon may be full, it will not technically be a supermoon, because it would be below the horizon when it reaches its peak at 10.50am local time on Sept 28, the second day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, according to the SCMP.

On the day of the festival, family members gather to offer a sacrifice to the moon, appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cakes, and express longing for family members and friends who live afar.

In addition, there are some other customs like the lighting of lanterns, and dragon and lion dances in some regions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2015, with the headline 'Supermoon cum lunar eclipse to make for a special Mid-Autumn Festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe