On Saturday, the moon will be full and only 225,804 miles from Earth (instead of the average 238,800 miles) and that means one thing: supermoon. The event will likely draw crowds of stargazers, although there’s at least one Astrophysicist who isn’t interested at all.
Usually, a supermoon takes place roughly three-to-four times a year according to Earthsky.org, but this Saturday’s will be the first one of 2015. The term defines a rare alignment, when the moon is not only full, but it is close to its perigee — the closest point on its orbit to the Earth.
There’s the opposite too, called a micromoon (a full moon on the farthest point on its orbit from Earth, or apogee). The last micromoon was on March 5, according to TimeandDate.com.
A supermoon is 12-14 percent larger and about 25-30 times brighter than a micromoon.
Meaning this Saturday night will be one of the brightest of the year, assuming there’s no cloud cover.
Space.com reports that the supermoon on Saturday will reach its fullest at 2:35 p.m. ET. It will hit its perigee roughly 20 hours later at 11 a.m. on Sunday. The alignment may not be perfect, but it’s close enough to earn the event the supermoon title.
For stargazers, Tim Hunter prepared a special map that’s currently posted on the Arizona Daily Star highlighting all the different craters and maria on the moon. There will be few days better than Saturday to have a lunar geography study.
For more artistic types, Photopills has set up an entire page dedicated to photographing the supermoon in its full glory.
Still, not everyone is a fan of the “supermoon” in fact there’s one Astrophysicist who doesn’t even think the term should exist — Neil deGrasse Tyson.
As he explained on his radio show, Star Talk, in 2013 (see below), the adjective “super” doesn’t fit for a moon that is only slightly bigger.
“If you had a 16-inch pizza, would you call that a “superpizza” compared to a 15-inch pizza? The supermoon is a 16-inch pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza. It’s a slightly bigger moon, I ain’t using the adjective “super.” I’m not going there.”
Tyson threw out one additional moon fun fact — the full moon does not exert any more tidal force than a moon at any other phase (crescent, half, etc.)
Still, the moon gets two inches farther from the Earth every year. Perhaps the supermoon on Saturday isn’t that much more impressive than a standard full moon, but enjoy it now. In a few million years it will be far smaller and dimmer.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]