Tonight’s Supermoon takes place a mere month after the February’s Snow Moon illuminated the nocturnal gloom. Stargazers are in for a treat as they may be able to spot the Moon looking bigger and brighter with the naked eye.
What is a Supermoon?
In reality Supermoons are never huge at all so don’t get fooled in thinking that you can see it being larger than usual
Dr Daniel Brown
Full Moons occur when the Moon is on the opposite side of Earth to the Sun.
This results in the surface of Earth’s natural satellite being fully illuminated.
Supermoons occur when a Full Moon reaches the perigee – the technical term for the point in the orbit of the Moon when it is closest to the Earth.
The opposite of the perigee is the apogee – when the Moon reaches this point thought to look much smaller than usual.
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Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, has revealed there is in reality little to distinguish them from a “normal” Full Moon.
He said: “A Supermoon is usually defined as the largest full moon possible.
“Some have called this one the first Supermoon of the year, while others have said it’s the second – and this illustrates the arbitrary way in which Supermoons are defined.
“Either way, this Full Moon is occurring when the Moon is that little bit closer to Earth than it is during other full moons.
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“This is a time that many become excited and want to observe the Moon themselves, particularly as the moon rise and set offers stunning photographic opportunities.
“However, in reality supermoons are never huge at all so don’t get fooled in thinking that you can see it being larger than usual.
Supermoons appear only 14 percent larger than the smallest possible moon – so it would be very difficult to recall its smallest apparent size when that happened in September last year.
“The so-called ‘Moon illusion’ will make the moon appear much larger than it really is, when it is close to the horizon, but that happens for any full moon or moon phase you observe.
“So go out there, enjoy spotting the moon and watching it rise and glide through the sky.”
How did the March Supermoon earn its name?
US-based space agency NASA said in a statement: “The Full Moon in March is known by many names: the Worm Moon, Sap Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sugar Moon, and Lenten Moon.
“According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the native tribes of what is now the northern and eastern US named this the Worm Moon after the earthworm casts that appear as the ground thaws.
“The more northern tribes knew this as the Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signalled the end of winter.
“Other northern names are the Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night, or the Sap Moon as this is the time for tapping maple trees. Europeans called this the Lenten Moon.”
Those who miss out on today’s celestial event should not worry as two more Super Moons will appear later in the year.
NASA’s Gordon Johnston said: “This Full Moon is a Supermoon.
“The term ‘Supermoon’ was coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to either a New or Full Moon that occurs when the Moon is within 90 percent of perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.
“By this definition, in a typical year there can be three or four Full Supermoons in a row and three or four New Supermoons in a row.
“In practice, what catches the public’s attention are the Full Moons that appear biggest – and therefore brightest – each year.”
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