Rare Supermoon Lunar Eclipse makes for auspicious Mid-Autumn Festival – but will Hong Kong get a good view?

A supermoon in August seen from the Astro-Physical Institute of the Canaries in the Canary Islands, Spain. Photo: EPA

You won’t have to go as far as outer space, but Hongkongers will have to head overseas if they want to catch a rare celestial phenomenon that is set to make this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival one of the most special yet.

In a highly unusual culmination of events in the cosmos, there will be a supermoon and a lunar eclipse at the same time during the festival, a three-day traditional celebration that starts on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

This year, in Hong Kong, the festival officially starts on September 27 and the public holiday is on the 28th, a Monday.

A supermoon happens when the moon reaches its peak while it is at the closest possible distance to the earth, making the moon’s diameter look up to 14 times bigger, according to Nasa.

This September’s supermoon will also coincide with a lunar eclipse, making it a supermoon lunar eclipse – an event which has happened just 5 times since 1910 (1910, 1928, 1946, 1964, 1982). The last time the two events converged was in 1982 and the next time will be 2033.

WATCH: The Supermoon lunar eclipse explained
Explainer: The Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sept. 27, 2015

But local stargazers and revellers will have to crank up their creative minds to imagine it all because the supermoon will be below the horizon in Hong Kong when the moon hits its peak at 10.50am on September 28, the second day of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

That day, the moon will rise at 6.28pm, so while it is highly likely that those gathering at Victoria Park or Tsim Sha Tsui will be able to spot the full moon, it won’t be at its biggest and brightest, according to Chan Yan-chun, a scientific officer from the Hong Kong Observatory.

“Strictly speaking, we will not see a full moon but there is a chance to see it,” he said.

As for the supermoon lunar eclipse, you’ll have to book a ticket to either North or South America to catch it on September 27, where it will be visible that night.

Of the 6 super moons happening this year, this month’s will be the closest to earth, which bodes well for the traditional beliefs of the Mid-Autumn festival that a big, bright moon represents the unity of families coming together to celebrate the occasion.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is marked by family and friends sharing and eating mooncakes (above) and lighting lanterns. Photo: Xinhua

The last time a full moon was seen on the first night of the Mid-Autumn Festival was in 2004. Though the timing may vary, round moons typically appear during the festival, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the harvest moon festival.

The festival is marked by family and friends sharing and eating mooncakes and lighting lanterns.

In Tai Hang, the tiny streets will be filled with thousands of people, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 67-metre fire dragon that weaves its way around the area towards Victoria Park.

Legend has it that the annual ritual began in 1880 to ward off a plague in Tai Hang village and the tradition has continued for more than 130 years.

In 2011, the fire dragon dance was placed on China’s national list of intangible cultural heritage.

Victoria Park in Causeway Bay will once again host the Mid-Autumn lantern carnival where festival-goers can marvel at the colourful lanterns on display from September 23-28. There will be a youth night on September 26 and a carnival night on September 27.

For those living in the New Territories, there are similar events closer to home with Sha Tin Park and Tsing Yi Park to host lantern displays from 25 September to 1 October.

Sha Tin Park will hold youth night on September 25 and a carnival night on September 26, while Tsing Yi Park will have a youth night on September 27 and a carnival night on September 28.

From September 10 to October 18, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui will be lit up with a lantern display called “Blossom beneath the moon”.

Lana Lam

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 September, 2015, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 September, 2015, 8:08pm