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Space and Physics

Look up! Don't Miss Tonight's "Super Worm Moon"

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMar 9 2020, 16:59 UTC

Everyone loves a supermoon. Paramonov Alexander/Shutterstock 

For all of you astrophiles, given good weather conditions, you should be able to enjoy a glorious full Moon tonight. The full Moon before the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere is traditionally called the "Worm Moon". It is also one of the few times a year when a full Moon coincides with when the Moon is nearly at its closest approach to Earth, known as a supermoon. So this makes tonight's lunar sighting a Super Worm Moon! (And yes, if hearing that made you think of Arrakis, I know how you feel.)

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During a supermoon, our natural satellite is closer to Earth than the average distance between us and the Moon, which is why the Moon looks so huge in the sky. Minimoons occur when the Moon is full and close to its furthest distance from Earth. Due to the movements of the orbits during the 12 or 13 full Moons of a calendar year, there are usually three or four supermoons and three or four minimoons. This year there will be just three supermoons; tonight's Worm Moon, a Pink Moon on April 7, and the Flower Moon on May 7.

Full Moons are named from various cultures, from Native American to Anglo-Saxon, for whom the lunar phases were an important method of time-keeping throughout the year, indicating when to expect inclement weather, new seasons, when to harvest, to hunt, and more. 

A supermoon is technically known as the perigee syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system ("supermoon" is not an official astronomical term and there's no agreed technical definition of it). The perigee is the closest point to us in the Moon’s orbit around Earth (the opposite of apogee, its furthest point). Syzygy, apart from being worth an excellent 25 points in Scrabble, is the moment when three celestial bodies lie in a straight line. Once every few years, a total lunar eclipse happens during a supermoon. The last time this happened was January 2019.

The unusual closeness will make the Moon appear 14 percent closer in the night sky and about 30 percent brighter. If you’re in the United States, the Moon will rise just after 7pm tonight in the east and will set after 7am tomorrow morning. In the UK, the Moon is set to rise around 5.35pm local time. For more precise information on Moon times for your location check the Time and Date website.   


Space and Physics