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Supermoon superhype June 11, 2013

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Urban Observing.
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On June 23 the Moon will be at perigee. That’s the point in the Moon’s orbit that is closest to the Earth. This actually happens about every 27.5 days, so it’s not really a very special event.

On June 23, the Moon will also be full, an event that occurs about every 29.5 days, so again, not very special.

In recent years, there’s been a lot of hype about the “supermoon“, that is, a full moon that coincides with perihelion. That happens about once a year, or maybe more often, depending on exactly how close the coincidence has to be (check out this story from earthsky.org: http://earthsky.org/tonight/is-biggest-and-closest-full-moon-on-june-23-2013-a-supermoon.)

English: The "Supermoon" of March 19...

English: The “Supermoon” of March 19, 2011 (right), compared to a rather “average” moon of December 20, 2010 (left): note the size difference. Images by Marco Langbroek, the Netherlands, using a Canon EOS 450D + Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 180mm lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But don’t look for the Moon to be noticeably bigger because it’s closer.

Check out this comparison of the average Moon and supermoon by Marco Langbroek of the Netherlands. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell the difference just by looking up at the Moon.

What’s more interesting is that it is only 2 days after the solstice. Full Moons are opposite the Sun in the sky, so when the Sun is near the farthest north point on the ecliptic, the full Moon will be at the farthest south point. For observers in the northern hemisphere, that means the lowest Moon of the year, and that means a long slow moonrise, and an enhanced moon illusion!

So get out there and take a look. Even if it wasn’t a perihelion Full Moon, it would still look super.

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