What is a supermoon?

On December 3, you can see the only supermoon of 2017.

December 01, 2017 06:37 pm | Updated 06:55 pm IST

 A view of the supermoon rising in Nilgiris. File

A view of the supermoon rising in Nilgiris. File

This Sunday is your chance to get up close with the moon. On December 3, you can see the first and last supermoon of the year. A supermoon is the popular term (not an astronomical one) for a full or new moon that is close to the Earth.

How does it occur?

According to the NASA website, the moon’s orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle. It travels in an ellipse that brings it closer to and farther from earth. The farthest point is called the apogee, about 405,500 kilometres from earth on average. Its closest point is the perigee, about 363,300 kilometres from earth. During every 27-day orbit around earth, the moon reaches both its apogee and perigee. Full moons can occur at any point along the moon’s elliptical path, but when a full moon occurs at or near the perigee, it looks slightly larger and brighter than a typical full moon. This is called a supermoon.

Any visible changes?

The moon appears 14% larger and 40% brighter. But we cannot see much difference with the naked eye. You can use your cameras with telephoto lenses, binoculars, or telescopes to get enhanced views of the lunar surface.

Will it cause any calamities?

A supermoon will not cause any earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, severe weather, or tsunamis.

What if it rains and I can’t see the moon?

You can watch the supermoon online on a free webcast from the ‘Virtual Telescope Project’ starting at 16:00 GMT on December 3. Real-time images of the moon from all over the world will be streamed online.

When can I watch it next?

You can catch the next episodes of the super moon on January 2 and 31, 2018. The moon on the 31st will be called a ‘blue moon’, as it is the second full moon in a month.

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