Super moons illuminate the night’s sky on average every 13 months and 18 days, according to Stargazer Nation. This summer, earthlings are in for a rare treat as three super moons will fill the darkness above. A smaller than normal full moon, as opposed to a super moon, is said to be at the point of apogee. A super moon is a full moon at the point of perigee. Apogee and perigee are related to the distance between the earth and the moon or some other orbiting mass. A super moon really isn’t all that special, if you ask a scientist. It is just a full moon that occurs when the moon is at perigee. Perigee is the point in space where an orbiting mass like the moon or a satellite is the closest to the earth it will get during its orbit.
Super moons might go unnoticed, according to Stargazer Nation, if the media didn’t make such a big deal about them. A super moon is about thirty percent brighter than a typical full moon. The most dramatic super moon effects can be seen during a moon illusion, when the moon is near the horizon. Apparently, a super moon looks bigger during a moon illusion, because all moons look bigger when they are nearer to the horizon at sunset. An interesting theory on why moons nearer to the horizon look so much bigger was provided in 2004 by Don McCready of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
This summer’s three super moons are a special treat, because they give earthlings three tries at viewing the super moon this summer. Astronomy Magazine, unfortunately, also says it’s unlikely that you would notice a difference in the super moons verses a normal full moon if you weren’t trying to. Stargazing romantics though, will still look up, as we did for the blood moon total lunar eclipse in April. The idea that no one would notice a 14 percent visual size increase and 30 percent brightness increase is compelling and disappointing, but scientists are adamant it’s all in our heads.
This summer’s super moons fall on July 12, August 10, and September 9. Interestingly, the term “super moon” wasn’t even invented by an astronomer. The first time the term “super moon” was used was in 1979 by Dell Horoscope magazine. Astronomers call the moon’s closest approach to the Earth the perigee-syzygy moon. For what it’s worth, the most super of all the super moons during the three decade time span between 1990 and 2020 will occur November 14, 2016.
What do you think? Have you ever noticed the difference between a normal full moon and a super moon without knowing the moon was going to be at the perigee point ahead of time?