The “Supermoon”

By Tiffany Ng ’20

On November 14th, the moon was a bit bigger and brighter than usual. This kind of moon is called the “Supermoon” and can go up to 14 per cent larger. Because of its larger diameter, the moon shines around 30 per cent more light onto Earth, making the moon shine brighter than normal.

It is possible for moons to appear larger than usual because the moon’s orbit is slightly elliptical. Sometimes the moon can be slightly closer and other times slightly farther away from the Earth. Supermoons occur when the moon is at the point where its orbit is closest to our planet; this point is called the perigree. When the moon is at the point in its orbit farthest away from the Earth, scientists call this the apogee.

In addition to the uneven orbit of the moon, there are also changes in the Earth’s movements as it revolves around the Sun. This means that the perigee and the full moon are not always in sync. Hence, in order to get a supermoon, the full moon cycle needs to fall in sync with the moon’s closest point of approach with the Earth, which is the reason why supermoons do not occur very often.

NASA scientists say that the moon was the biggest it has appeared since 1948 – 68 years ago. They also predict that the next supermoon will only occur almost two decades from now, in 2034. However, if you didn’t get to see the supermoon a few days ago, don’t worry! This supermoon is the second in a series of three supermoons in a row. NASA scientists predict that the third and last supermoon is expected to appear on December 14th.

Sources:

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/novembers-spectacular-supermoon

http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/02/world/supermoon-november-14-2016/index.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37969538

Filed in: Featured content, Science

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