Supermoon: Fact Vs. Fiction

“Fact: The closest perigee full Moon always comes just two weeks, either before or after, the farthest apogee new Moon! This year, it occurred on Halloween: October 31st, 2016, when the Moon reached a distance of 406,662 km, just 58 km short of its maximum distance.

Fiction: The tides will be significantly larger than normal. Although it’s true that the tidal forces will be slightly greater, they’re only 2% larger than last month’s full Moon. That means that if last month, there was a three foot (~1 meter) difference between high tide and low tide, there will be an extra ¾ths-of-an-inch (2 cm) difference; not even discernible without a measuring device.”

This coming Monday, November 14th, 2016, a full Moon will occur extremely close – within 90 minutes – of a very, very close lunar perigee. The Moon will come within 356,509 km of Earth while 99.9% full, making this the most “super” Supermoon Earth has seen in 68 years. No matter where you are on Earth, if you have clear skies, it’s worth a look, particularly right before dawn, where it’s at its closest and brightest. But what are the facts about a Supermoon, and what are the fictions? How does it impact the tides? How much closer does this Supermoon come than other close, bright full moons? Will there be an eclipse with it? Why is it called the Beaver Moon? And does it have anything to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle?

Find out the facts and fictions of the closest, brightest perigee full Moon in over half a century, and enjoy the sights and the science!


Super moon rises during Mid-Autumn Festival

People across China marked the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sunday, despite the cloudy skies in some parts of the country obscuring the moon.

Sunday was also a rare super moon followed by a lunar eclipse.

According to Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, when the moon is very close to the earth, it is termed as a lunar perigee, i.e., the moon appears very large when viewed from the earth.

Here’s a collection of pictures of the super moon from around the world.


The Difference A Dark Sky Makes

“As the Moon came out of eclipse, a brilliant sliver of greyish Moon emerged on the eastern side, a sign of the Earth’s shadow slipping off of it. But the Milky Way was still visible overhead, just gradually less-and-less detailed. The fainter stars slipped away into the night, while the brighter stars became fainter and less colored.

But there was a surprise to me as well. The portion of the Moon still in eclipse — much to my surprise — remained reddened in color! It only occurred to me at that moment that the un-illuminated portion of the Moon, the part still in eclipse, would still be the recipient of the light of Earthshine, but that light would be predominantly red while the Moon was in its full phase!”

By far, one of the highlights of astronomy this year took place earlier this week: a total lunar eclipse featuring a perigee Moon. The sight of watching the Earth’s shadow consume the Moon, eventually swallowing it whole and revealing a faint, red lunar disk, and then the process reversing itself, is unlike any other visible to the naked eye. But the rest of the sky is always a treat as well. While a full Moon often ruins an otherwise pristine night sky with its light pollution, a dark sky during a lunar eclipse can be just as exciting as a new Moon sky, with a transition unlike anything else.

Surreal Moon

Big, bright, and beautiful, a Full Moon near perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit around our fair planet, rose on August 10. This remarkable picture records the scene with a dreamlike quality from the east coast of the United States. The picture is actually a composite of 10 digital frames made with exposures from 1/500th second to 1 second long, preserving contrast and detail over a much wider than normal range of brightness. At a perigee distance of a mere 356,896 kilometers, August’s Full Moon was the closest, and so the largest and most super, of the three Full Moons nearest perigee in 2014 now popularly known as supermoons. But if you missed August’s super supermoon, the next not-quite-so supermoon will be September 8. Then, near the full lunar phase the Moon’s perigee will be a slightly more distant 358,387 kilometers. That’s only about 0.4 percent less super (farther and smaller) than the super supermoon.

Image credit & copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)