Today presents a “once-every-few-decades” opportunity to see something special in the sky as the moon will look significantly bigger than it usually appears, resulting in what’s called a “supermoon”,
According to NASA, a supermoon is when we see the full moon at its closest to earth.
“The moon’s orbit around earth is slightly elliptical so sometimes it is closer and sometimes it’s farther away. When the moon is full as its closest pass to earth, it is known as a supermoon. At perigree — the point at which the moon is closest to earth — the moon can be as much as 14% closer to earth than at apogee, when the moon is farthest from our planet. The full moon appears much larger in diameter and because it is larger, shines 30% more moonlight onto the earth”, NASA explained.
This will actually be the second supermoon of 2016, after one occurred on 16th October, but because today’s will become full within about two hours of perigee, it will be the first largest supermoon of the 21st century.
The last time this happened was in 1948 and, while another supermoon will occur on 14th December this year, the next time it will be as big as today’s will only be in 2034, so if you miss it today, you’ll have to wait for another 18 years.
To view this phenomenon here in South Africa, look up in the sky between 3pm and 4pm (without looking directly into the sun) to see the supermoon at its largest.
“Depending on where you’re viewing it from, the difference between a supermoon and a regular full moon can be stark, or difficult to tell. If the moon is hanging high overhead, and you have no buildings or landmarks to compare it to, it can be tricky to tell that it’s larger than usual. But if you’re viewing from a spot where the moon is sitting closer to the horizon, it can create what’s known as ‘moon illusion’ [appearing unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects],” Science Alert explained.
If you’re a photographer who wants to take a few shots of the supermoon, NASA has a few handy tips and tricks on how best you can capture it.
[Image – CC Wikimedia Commons]