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Unstrange Phenomena

02 May 2012

Astronomy: Sky Watch Biggest 2012 Super Moon Saturday

Washington Moonrise
Photo by Tim McCord in Entiat, Washington on 19 March 2011

From Denny:  Look up in the night sky this weekend for the most awesome extra-large and extra-bright moon viewing for the entire year of 2012.  The spectacular Super Moon will be showing off its size and brightness on 5 May 2012 at 11:35PM EDT.  It will swing in closer at 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from Earth.

Why will the moon appear to be so large and bright?  Turns out this month's full moon also coincides with the time when the moon is closest in its approach to Earth, called the moon's perigee.

Another factor for this Super Moon show is because the perigee in this month will be the closest to Earth of any for this year, varying only by three percent.  How is that so?  According to meteorologist Joe Rao, Space.com's skywatching columnist, "it happens because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular."

How much brighter will the Super Moon be this month?  Try an extra 16 percent brighter than average.  Now that makes for great skywatching, even with the naked peepers (eyes).

Come 28 November 2012 and the full moon will coincide with apogee, which means that is the moon's farthest approach to our planet.  That will result in an especially dim and small full moon, so enjoy this large and bright May Super Moon while you can!

Should we worry about the possibility of earthquakes or extreme effects upon the oceans' tides because the moon is so close to Earth and so large in appearance?  Scientists say no to those worries.  They say it is only a slight distance difference, not enough to cause such unusual effects.

Will the oceans' tides be different because of the Super Moon?  No, because it is a Super Moon time.  Yes, because during any moon's perigee the moon does exert about 42 percent more tidal force than during its apogee two weeks later.  As a result of perigee, the oceans' tides around the world will be either higher or lower than normal.

When is the best time to view and photograph this Super Moon?  Look for it just after it rises or just before it sets, when it is close to the horizon.  Most likely you will be viewing the Super Moon behind a building or trees.  What is great about this effect is that it creates an optical illusion as in the photograph above, for the Super Moon appears far larger than it truly is.

Happy Skywatching and let me know what you saw in your corner of the world!

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