A ‘Ring of Fire’ solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon that occurs when the moon’s orbit is at its apogee: the part of its orbit farthest away from the Earth. Because the moon is so far away, it seems smaller than normal to the human eye. The result is that the moon doesn't entirely block out our view of the sun, but leaves an “annulus,” or ring of sunlight glowing around it. Hence the term  “annular” eclipse rather than a “total” eclipse.

Moon Wobble

This time-lapse depicts a typical view from the northern hemisphere. The most dramatic monthly change is the moon’s phase, caused by the shifting angle of the sun as the moon orbits the Earth every 27 days. Also, due to the tilt and shape of the moon’s orbit, we see it from a slightly different angle over the course of a month generating a slight wobble or libration. Because of this we actually see more than half of the lunar surface over a month, about 59%.

The size differences you see are due to the orbit of the moon around the Earth being elliptical. The moon will appear larger when it reaches the closest point to Earth in its orbit or perigee, the opposite being apogee. The size differences are around 10% and when perigee also happens around a full moon, this creates a so called “Super-Moon”. Combine that sight with the Moon Illusion and you have - what seems like - an extremely large moon.


Boston Moonrise by Dennis di Cicco

The exact Full Moon of 2011 March 19 occurred within an hour of perigee, the closest point in the Moon’s orbit to Earth.

As a result it appeared some 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a Full Moon near apogee, the most distant point in the elliptical lunar orbit. Seen here, the near perigee Full Moon still hugs the horizon, distorted by atmospheric refraction as it rises over Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

The telescopic night skyscape was shot from Prospect Hill in Waltham, Massachusetts, roughly 10 miles from the Boston skyline. Just to the left of the orange lunar disk is the distinctive control tower at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Topped by lights, the tall, twin towers of the cable-stayed Zakim Bridge spanning the Charles River are also included in the scene. Read this report on Sky&Telescope on how the photographer made this “super” moon image.


Among the superheroes shown listed in the Kronos database in The Incredibles are Universal Man, Psycwave, Everseer, Macroburst, Phylange, Blazestone, Downburst, Hyper Shock, Apogee, Blitzerman, Tradewind, Vectress, Gazerbeam, Stormicide, Gamma Jack, ElastiGirl, Frozone, and Mr. Incredible.