Today is Sunday, June 23, 2013.
Last night and this evening we are able to see the so-called “supermoon,” a full moon at his perigee (the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit. There is a “supermoon” about once every 14 full moon cycles. The 2012 supermoon appeared on May 5, 2012. When the moon is closest to the earth, it can appear up to 12-14% larger, and 30% brighter than a moon at its apogee, or farthest point from Earth.
Not all supermoons are the same distance from Earth. The 2013 supermoon will rise just about sunset, and can be seen from anywhere on Earth, weather permitting. It will be closer to Earth than recent supermoons. If your sky is cloudy or your windows are not facing east, you can watch the supermoon on a live webcast of the supermoon on SPACE.com beginning on Sunday beginning at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 June 24 GMT), courtesy of the online Slooh Space Camera, an online website for sky watchers (http://www.slooh.com). The technical name for the supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. The word syzygy is a Greek word meaning a lineup of three celestial bodies.
Scientists are not that excited about the supermoon, except as a chance to talk about what they’ve learned, because they have the LRO, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft that is actually orbiting the moon right now. The LRO is reportedly sending back phenomenal closeup images of the moon’s surface.
In times past, a supermoon has been associated with a lot of superstitions. The fact is that the supermoon will not destroy earth or change Earth’s orbit, it will not make anybody go crazy. A supermoons that occurs in winter looks larger than ones that happen in summer. Although the supermoon may cause high tides, it does not cause natural disasters, such as earthquakes. (At the time of the major earthquake in Japan, the moon was actually pretty far away. If the supermoon for that year, which occurred earlier, had been the culprit, the earthquake would have happened during the supermoon event.)
Supermoons will eventually get smaller and smaller in the distant future, because the moon is slowly propelling itself out of Earth’s orbit. However, the moon’s orbit only moves 3.8 centimeters away per year, so don’t hold your breath.
If you need to plan ahead, the next supermoon will occur on August 10, 2014. Mark your calendars. 🙂