You may have heard about Monday’s supermoon, but what exactly is it, and is it really all that super?
In order to understand this phenomenon, you need to know a little bit about the orbital mechanics of our solar system and how the sun, Earth and moon move.
The distance from Earth to the moon is an average of 384,000 km. However, the moon’s orbit is elliptical — as opposed to circular — and its distance varies by roughly 30,000 km over the course of one month. That means that once a month the moon is at a position closest to earth known as perigee, and farthest, apogee.
This phenomenon occurs when the full moon is closest to the Earth on its orbit.
How the supermoon got its name?
While astronomers refer to this phenomenon as a perigee full moon. The term supermoon has gained a foothold in popular culture.
Astrologer Richard Noelle says he coined the term supermoon in a 1979 article he wrote for Horoscope magazine. It described “a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.”
November’s supermoon is also known as the Beaver Moon or Frost Moon. The names were coined by Native Americans due to the time at which the weather started getting colder and more pelts were needed to keep warm.
What can you expect to see?
In 2016, we’ll get a total of three supermoons:
- one that passed on October 16,
- the second on Monday, November 14 and,
- the third on December 16.
But what makes Monday’s supermoon so special is that it’s the closest supermoon since January 26, 1948. It becomes full about two hours before perigee, at which time the moon will be roughly 356,509 kilometres from Earth.
Nasa says that we will not see a supermoon this close to earth again until November 25, 2034. The moon will appear up to one-third brighter and 14% bigger than average.
If you missed the supermoon this Link will show you the 11 eye catching images of this event from across the world.