December 3rd, 2017 marks the first in a trilogy of super moons about to occur, but what is a super moon?
A super moon, or a perigee full moon, is when the full moon occurs during the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. This can happen one or two times a year — and is in fact happening again on January 2nd and 31st, 2018 — so is therefore not an uncommon phenomena but we think it gives us a great opportunity to gaze upward and think about our place in the universe.
Image credit: NASA
The best time to view the super moon is at dusk, when the Moon is low in the sky and closer to Earth. Astronomers say that the name ‘super moon’ can be a bit misleading as the moon only looks up to 30% bigger and 14% brighter, which sometimes can’t be discerned by the naked eye – we guess you’ll just have to take a moment to look upwards and judge for yourselves whether you think Sunday night’s moon is particularly large or not!
Check your local moon rise time here and if you need tips on how to photograph Earth’s Moon, NASA’s photographer Bill Ingalls shares his suggestions here. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet took a photograph of 2016’s super moon (see below) from on board the International Space Station. He posted it on social media, commenting: “This is tonight’s ‘super moon’ seen from space! The last one I saw was in Baikonur… I like this one better! ;)”