Tonight, there will be a special astronomical event. The November “supermoon” is going to be especially close to Earth. This is going to offer an extraordinary sight. Regular skywatchers or those who simply want to see something special can look to the sky tonight. This full moon is special because it is going to be bigger and brighter than regular full moons.
The Moon Will Be at Perigee Tonight
A supermoon is a term that describes the full moon at its perigee. That means at the closest point to planet Earth during its lunar orbit. The orbit of the moon isn’t a perfect circle. The point where the moon is the farthest away from Earth is called the apogee. And when it is closest it’s called the perigee.
This supermoon is going to be the most spectacular one that we have seen in almost 69 years. The next opportunity for the full moon to be this close to planet Earth is going to be on November 25, 2034.
The lunar orbit is not a perfect circle for various reasons. Noah Petro is a deputy scientist at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission at NASA. He explained why that is so.
“The main reason why the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle is that there are a lot of tidal, or gravitational, forces that are pulling on the moon,”
says Noah Petro.
He added that the orbit of the moon receives the impact from the gravity of Earth. But also receives an impact from the gravity of other planets from our solar system. So there are many gravitational forces that are pushing and pulling on the moon. This “gives us opportunities to have these close passes” and be able to take a closer look at the moon.
Closest Supermoon in 69 Years
The moon isn’t just going to be closer. Looking at the moon from Earth, even with the naked eye, it is going to appear larger in size. It is also going to shine brighter than on other night.
Making an average, the moon orbits at a distance of 238,855 miles (384,400 km) from Earth. When the moon is at perigee it orbits closer. That makes appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter up in the sky.
“We’re not talking about dramatic shifts in distance, but were talking about subtle differences that are noticeable if you’re used to looking at the moon,”
says Noah Petro.
Tonight’s supermoon is going to be approximately 221,524 miles (356,508 kilometers) from Earth. This is the closest full moon since January 26, 1948. Yet, it’s not the closest the moon has ever been since they started keeping records. That happened in January 1912.
The supermoon is going to be at peak perigee during the morning of November 14 at 8:52 a.m. EST (1352 GMT). With the moon being this close to Earth, features on the surface of the moon can be observed. You can see things such as impact craters with the naked eye. It’s going to make for a fun night of moon gazing.
Image source: here.