The moon will appear bigger and brighter than any other time this year, an astronomical phenomenon occuring when the moon is both full and at its closest to Earth in its orbit, which scientists call a perigee.
The perigee full moon, popularly known as a “supermoon,” will appear 8 percent larger than the average full moon, said astronomer and Georgia Regents University physics professor Grant Thompson. The moon will be about 14,000 miles closer to Earth than average.
“A lot of people think the moon’s orbit is a circle. The orbit is actually an ellipse, more like an egg shape,” Thompson said.
Supermoons are not unusual – one occurred in May and another one comes in July – but this Sunday’s full moon will appear the largest of all.
“It’s amazing how bright it is, and it lights up the earth significantly,” said Darlene Smalley, the program director of Dupont Planetarium at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken.
The moon will be closest to Earth at 7:32 a.m. Sunday. Such close proximity won’t occur again until August 2014.
Because the moon reaches its peak fullness on Sunday morning, the supermoon can be viewed Saturday and Sunday nights, Smalley said.
The moon’s brightness will be too blinding to safely view with a telescope, Smalley said. People can use binoculars to get a closer look, but a full moon is not the best time to view lunar features such as craters, she said.
Some people will have a difficult time discerning the moon’s bigger appearance, but the brightness will be evident, Thompson said. Unless one looks at the full moon often and knows its typical size, the supermoon won’t appear much different in size.
The supermoon will affect ocean as the moon’s gravitational force will cause extra high and extra low tides.