spaceSpace and PhysicsspaceAstronomy

Record Breaking "Supermoon" Is The Biggest Seen In 68 Years


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

The full Moon will be impressive, but no more so than usual. Trevor Jones/Shutterstock

Prepare yourselves, because in two weeks we are going to witness the most super supermoon in 68 years. Who knows what havoc it’ll cause (hint: not much).

On November 14, the Moon will reach its closest point to Earth, its perigee, at the same time that it is in the full Moon phase (when the whole face that points towards us is lit by the Sun). This event is called a supermoon.


Specifically, at 8.52am EST (1.52pm GMT), the Moon will be at its “fullest”, with the Sun, Earth, and the Moon all lined up – known as syzygy. Within two hours of this, the Moon will be just 356,509 kilometers (221,524 miles) from Earth.

At its furthest point (apogee) in its month-long orbit, the Moon is usually more than 400,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) away. The reason for the difference is that the Moon's orbit, like the planets around the Sun, is not perfectly circular, and instead follows a slight ellipse.

This will be the closest the Moon has come to Earth (by a few hundred kilometers) since January 26, 1948, and it will not come closer until November 25, 2034.

But despite this proximity, the Moon won’t appear unusually big. In fact, to the naked eye, the difference between perigee and apogee is almost indiscernible. The difference between the two is about 14 percent in size and 30 percent in brightness, according to NASA.


A full Moon can still be impressive, though, particularly if it is near the horizon, when it can appear extra large due to a trick called the Moon illusion. People often mistake this illusion for the effect of the supermoon, so be warned.

And, well, a supermoon isn’t all that super or rare anyway. On average, there are about five every year, defined as occurring when a full moon – or a new moon, when it is shrouded in darkness – is within 90 percent of its closest approach in its orbit.

Nonetheless, this supermoon is more super than other ones we’ve experienced recently. But remember, apart from the full moon itself being rather pretty, you won’t notice anything particularly unusual.


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