Grab your telescopes and cameras Saturday nights and look to the heavens — or just howl at the biggest moon you'll see this year.
According to astronomers, this year's “Super Moon” will boast more super qualities than usual.
“The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993,” Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. told USA Today.
This Super Moon (a phrase coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979) will appear especially large because the moment of perigee—when the moon is closest to the Earth in its monthly rotation—will coincide with the appearance of a perfectly full moon, Smithsonian points out. During last year’s Super Moon on March 19, 2011, for comparison, the perigee and full moon were 50 minutes apart.
On Saturday at 11:34 p.m. ET, the moon reaches full moon status—when the earth, moon and sun are all in alignment. One minute later, at 11:35 p.m., “perigee” will occur.
The moon will be 221,802 miles away from Earth Saturday night; (the average distance is 238,855 according to NASA.) That’s 17,053 miles closer.
This all translates to a moon that will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons this year, according to NASA. (An astronomer interviewed by National Geographic says 16 percent bigger.)
Though the unusual appearance of this month's full moon may be surprising to some, there's no reason for alarm, scientists warn. The slight distance difference isn't enough to cause any earthquakes or extreme tidal effects, experts say.
However, the normal tides around the world will be particularly high and low. At perigee, the moon will exert about 42 percent more tidal force than it will during its next apogee two weeks later, Rao said.
To view this weekend's super moon to best effect, look for it just after it rises or before it sets, when it is close to the horizon. There, you can catch a view of the moon behind buildings or trees, an effect which produces an optical illusion, making the moon seem even larger than it really is.
You should get a pretty good glimpse of it anywhere in Union County, since the National Weather Service is calling for partly cloudy weather, with a low around 52 degrees Saturday night.
Patch plans to post a photo gallery of the Super Moon with photos from our readers late Saturday night. Come back to Patch Saturday night or Sunday and add your photos to our community gallery.