Avid sky-watchers and couch astronomers will be in for a treat next Friday, March 20, as the third of six Supermoons will be seen in the night’s sky. What’s even more exceptional though, is that this Supermoon will coincide with not only the Spring equinox, but people in Europe, Northern Africa, and Northern Asia will also be privy to a partial Solar Eclipse, when the Supermoon passes in front of the sun, blocking out an estimated 30 to 98 percent of the sun’s surface, depending on where you will be watching. For those in Britain, it will be the largest solar eclipse since 1999. Star gazers in Norway and the Faroe Islands will be lucky enough to catch a total solar eclipse.
But what is a Supermoon? A Supermoon, or perigee moon, as they’re also called, occurs when the full or new moon passes in front of the Earth at its closest orbital approach, causing it to appear larger than usual.
Dr. Edward Bloomer, who is an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, spoke with the Telegraph about the Supermoon eclipse event, and said that this eclipse was even more impressive, because the moon will be the closest it’s been to the Earth is over 18 years.
“The Earth is orbiting around the Sun and sometimes is slightly closer and sometimes further away, and the Earth is also wobbling around on its axis, Likewise the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is elliptical and slightly tilted so it’s rare for the Sun, Earth and Moon to actually line up. This March there is an exact alignment so nearly all of the light will be blocked out.”
He explained that when all three celestial bodies come into perfect alignment, it’s called a syzygy effect.
Typically, any given year sees between three and six Supermoons. The first two of six predicted Supermoons for 2015 occurred in January and February, with the third occurring next week. The last three will be seen in July, August and September. For North Americans, the Supermoon that will occur on September 28 will be the closest to the Earth of the six, at a distance of 357,098 kilometers, and will bring along with it a total lunar eclipse. Total lunar eclipses are exceptionally rare, with only one in three being total. The eclipse taking place in September will be the final in a lunar tetrad, which is when four total eclipses happen back to back, each within six months of the other.
Until September’s phenomena, North Americans will have to content themselves with looking at pictures online of next Friday’s Supermoon eclipse, however, if you happen to be in the solar eclipse’s path, take care to never look directly at it, even through binoculars. The safest way to watch a solar eclipse is through a number 14 or darker welder’s glass filter. If that is not readily available, make yourself a pinhole projector with white computer paper.
[Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images]
[Image Credit: The Telegraph]