Need some mood lighting for a romantic evening this weekend? Tomorrow night’s “super moon” should be perfect. What makes it a super moon? Its elliptical orbit.
Because of slight variability in its orbit, this perigee is the closest of all the perigees this year for the Earth’s satellite. That means a “super moon” that will appear ~14% larger and ~30% brighter (because it’s ~47,000km closer than its apogee, or furthest point away from Earth). The result is a grand, golden orb. Make sure you go outside tomorrow night for a bit and enjoy it, it will be the brightest of 2012! The Moon will reach perigee at 11:34 p.m. EDT (0334 GMT on Sunday). One minute later, it will line up with the Earth and the Sun to become full.
The last perigee Moon was on March 19, 2011, when it was about 250 miles closer than Saturday’s.
A perigee full Moon can bring tides that are higher than normal but only by an inch or so (a few centimeters). The effect can be amplified by local geography, but only by about six inches.
To experience the gravity of its grandeur, NASA astronomers recommend viewing the super moon during moonrise, when the glowing disc emerges over mere terrestrial forms. Behind majestic trees or even towering skyscrapers, the super moon creates an inexplicable illusion that it’s even larger than when it’s hanging in the sky.
The light from the perigee Moon will wash out all but the brightest fireballs from the springtime Eta Aquarid meteor shower, NASA said. From 40 to 60 meteors from the shower normally can be seen each hour.
The Eta Aquarid meteors make up the debris trail of Halley’s Comet, which passes by Earth every 76 years.
The show starts about 8 p.m. Saturday. The super moon rises at 7:59 p.m. amid clear skies while the sun sets at 8:01 p.m. Though super moons sometimes get a bad rap — particularly from werewolves and headless horsemen — they mostly only use their powers for good. Super moons only raise tidewaters an insignificant inch or so, and they don’t lead to a spike in beastly attacks.
But the super moon does have to share its spotlight with other celestial events this month. May 20 will host a new moon and a partial solar eclipse, and on May 21, Venus will be visible just north of the moon.
Still don’t get it? Maybe this video will help: