The word “supermoon” seems to get tossed around a lot these days – so much, in fact, that it might not seem like that big of a deal – but trust us, stargazers, the November’s supermoon is one that for the record books, and you’re definitely not going to want to miss it!
Why is that? Because, according to CNN and Space.com reports, this should be the biggest and brightest supermoon of the 21st century so far. In fact, this will be the largest since 1948, and we won’t be able to see its equal until the year 2034, so you may want to clear your schedules.
A full moon, as you may know, occurs when a month’s the sun, Earth, and moon line up with the moon on the side of the Earth furthest from the sun. A supermoon, on the other hand, is when the full moon occurs when the moon is at its closest point of approach to Earth, or “perigee.”
When this happens, the moon can appear to be as much as 14% bigger and up to 30% brighter in the night sky, according to NASA. This month’s event takes place on November 14, and while it will be the second of three consecutive supermoons (the first was on Oct. 16, while the third will occur next month), it will far and away be the brightest, the US space agency noted.
Why is this supermoon different, and how can I see it?
Supermoons tend to occur every 13 months or so, and 2016 is ending with three in a row, so what makes the November one different from the others? As NASA explains, it’s all because of when it takes place. Specifically, this month’s supermoon will become full within approximately two hours of perigee, causing it to appear even bigger and brighter than most.
According to EarthSky, the moon will turn precisely full at 8:52am ET (1:52pm UTC) on Nov. 14. However, for viewers in Europe and North America, the best chance to get a good look at it will be on the previous night, Nov. 13. Those in the western US could have a chance to see the moon near its fullest at 5:52am PST (about 30 minutes before sunrise), while those in Asia will likely be able to see it near its largest point (9:52pm in Hong Kong, 7:22pm in India).
The December supermoon is also garnering a lot of attention, but not in a positive way. As CNN and Space.com said, it will likely limit stargazers’ opportunity to see the annual Geminid meteor shower. Normally, more than 100 meteors per hour can be seen during the Geminids peak, but as NASA explained, the supermoon will likely limit that to only a few dozen per hour.
“The supermoon of December 14 is remarkable for a different reason: it’s going to wipe out the view of the Geminid meteor shower,” the agency explained. “Bright moonlight will reduce the visibility of faint meteors five to ten fold, transforming the usually fantastic Geminids into an astronomical footnote. Sky watchers will be lucky to see a dozen Geminids per hour when the shower peaks. Oh well, at least the moon will be remarkable.”
Image credit: Thinkstock
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