This year’s lineup of five “supermoons” may put a sky-watcher to sleep. There were the new moons of January and February, followed by one on July 13th. So if you glimpsed one of those, did you catch another on August 10th (and the final act that happens on September 8th)?
Because last night’s moon was the closest the cheesy orb has ever been to Earth this year.
You likely learned about moons many moons ago. It’s a cycle that looms large in Islamic religion, and serves as a natural time clock for female fertility. It goes through phases every 29.5 days moving from full to half moon to crescent to new. And – with the same reliability as sunrises and sets – the cycle repeats.
So what’s a Super Moon? It’s an astronomical mash-up of two distinct lunar aspects. When a full moon is coincidental with the moon orbiting at its closest point to Earth, astronomers describe it as a “perigee full moon”. A perigee is the point in outer space where an object traveling around the Earth is closest to Earth’s surface, and they routinely happen whether or not the moon is full.
According to the Weather Network, lunar perigees differ depending on measured orbit, ranging from 356,400 to 370,400 kilometers from Earth. A perigee full moon is specifically when the full moon happens closest to the minimum of that range. They typically occur every 13-14 months, but could some years have produced up to six Super Moons.
Last night’s Super Moon – at 356,896 km away, his year’s truest perigee full moon – occurred when full moon and perigee happen less than half an hour apart from one another.
It’s not always easy to gauge the size of the moon as we watch it in the sky (which is apparently one possible reason for the famous ‘moon illusion’), but being closer generally makes a perigee full moon look around 14 per cent bigger than an apogee full moon, and it gives off about 30 per cent more light as a result.
Parking Full Moon myths such as werewolves, lunatics and a jump in babies being born, what can you really expect? It could cause higher than usual tides – not good news for people in the path of Hurricanes Julio, Halong and Genevieve.
It will reduce your star-gazing if you happen to be camping at Jordan’s Wadi Rum, Egypt’s Sharm El Sheik or Israel’s Mitzpe Ramon .
To make sure your own skies will be clear for Super Moon viewing, tune in to your local weather forecast.
Image of moon over Egypt desert from Shutterstock