This year we are set to receive FOUR Supermoons in a row, with the third supermoon actually being a Super Blue Moon! Find out what a blue moon is here.
The Moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly oval shaped or elliptical. So, every month there’s a time when the Moon is at its closest distance to Earth (at perigee) and another time when it is at its furthest distance from Earth (at apogee).
“Supermoon” is not an official astronomical term. Astronomers often say “Moon at perigee” or “Moon at apogee” in conversation. When perigee coincides with the full Moon, its popularly called a “Supermoon”. And when the full Moon coincides with apogee? Well, it’s a “Micromoon” or a “Minimoon”! Although these are not official astronomical terms, they certainly grab your attention which means we have more people heading outside to gaze up at the wonderful night sky.
When to look: Here are the dates and rising times for the Supermoons:
- 3rd July, 5:00pm
- 2nd August, 6:16pm
- 31st August, 6:17pm
- 29th September, 6:13pm
Which direction to look: The Moon rises in the east.
Where’s the Best Place to see the Supermoon Rise?
Find a place where you can see the eastern horizon well. Anywhere will be OK as long as you have a pretty clear view to the eastern horizon without buildings or trees blocking your view.
If you’d like to try and photograph the Supermoon, think about what type of landscape you’d like to capture in the foreground of your image. A group of trees, an interesting building or a body of water like a lake or river. Remember, this landscape needs to be in your view as you look east.
Does a “Supermoon” appear larger to the naked eye?
Do you think you will notice a difference between a “Supermoon” and a usual full Moon? The difference in the apparent size between a usual full Moon and a “Supermoon” is barely noticeable to the naked eye. So you won’t notice a difference in size. For some comparisons between “Supermoons” and “Micromoons”, check out the NASA website. Plus, Ian Musgrave, Australia’s Astroblogger made this comparison.
What craters can you see on the Moon?
When you observe the Moon, take it one step further and identify a crater or two! There are some great tools that help you out with maps of all the features on the surface of the Moon. Before you know it, you’ll be pointing out the Tycho Crater or the Sea of Tranquillity to friends and family! Try some of these free apps and software:
Moon Phase and Libration Visualizations (From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. And, yes, the visualization is for the Southern Hemisphere stargazers!)
Moon Globe (for iOS)
Moon Atlas 3D (for Android)
LunarMap Lite (for Android)