General Science

What You Need to Know About the Supermoon

posted: 11/14/16
by: Mary Beth McAndrews
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A perigree full moon or supermoon is seen, Sunday, August 10, 2014, in Washington. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth at the same time it is full.
NASA/Bill Ingalls

The supermoon. It's covering your Instagram feed, all of your friends and family are posting about it. So you know it has to be cool. But what makes the supermoon so cool?

First, this is the biggest the moon has appeared to us on Earth since 1948. It will appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual! The moon will appear this big and bright because the moon will reach its perigee, its closest point to Earth during its orbit. The moon will be 221,525 miles from Earth, the closest it's been in 69 years.

To make this particular event even more special, a moon of this size won't appear until November 2034.

Supermoon is Kazakhstan
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The Moon, or supermoon, is seen rising behind the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan the morning of November 18 (Kazakh time.) All three will spend approximately six months on the orbital complex. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth.
NASA/Bill Ingalls

Supermoon isn't the technical term, though. Scientists call this event, perigee-syzygy. Syzygy refers to when three celestial bodies are in a line. The event is relatively common, with 5 happening this year.

Don't worry, this supermoon won't cause insanity or massive flooding. Since the moon affects the tides, tides may be higher than usual. But, the full moon won't cause any extreme behavior!

So when can you see it? For those in North and South America, the perigee occurred this morning. However, we'll still be able to see a larger-than-normal moon tonight!

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