This Upcoming Supermoon Is Going To Be The Biggest And Brightest In Almost 70 Years
A "supermoon" is fairly self-explanatory. For us mere terrestrials, it means that the moon is going to look really, really big. And this upcoming supermoon—which starts on Sunday evening, reaching a peak on Monday morning—is going to be the biggest we've gotten since 1948.
As for the nuts and bolts of it, we'll first explain a bit about the moon's orbit. As noted at Science Alert, the moon has an elliptical orbit around the Earth, and one side of this orbit gets 30,000 miles closer to our planet than the other side does (the closer side is called the perigee, and the other side is called the apogee). A supermoon happens when:
1. The moon arrives at its perigee.
2. The moon, Earth, and sun all line up, with the Earth being in the middle of the two.
Supermoons aren't all that uncommon, actually. In fact, 2016 will have seen three of them by the end of the year, according to Space.com. But this upcoming one will be different, as the moon will be full at an exceedingly close distance from Earth. It hasn't happened this close to our planet since 1948, and scientists don't expect it to occur again until 2034. This supermoon will appear to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than an average full moon. It's expected to reach its full peak (i.e. it'll look the biggest) on Monday morning at 5:52 a.m. Pacific.
Also of note, the November full moon had been dubbed by Algonquin Native American tribes and American colonists as the "beaver moon," because it signified a time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze over. This is to say that the upcoming supermoon is also considered a "beaver moon."
While the moon will indeed look larger this Sunday night and Monday morning, the effect may vary depending on where you're viewing it from. The common thinking is that you'll want to get away to somewhere remote and dark to get a good look at a celestial body. For the supermoon, however, it may help to be in the city. As noted at NASA, the difference between a supermoon and a regular full moon becomes much starker when the moon is closer to the horizon, especially one that has tall trees or big skyscrapers. These objects will provide a sense of scale that emphasizes how big the moon is. On the other hand, when the moon is hanging high with no other objects for you to compare it to, it may seem like any regular ol' full moon.
If you'd rather NOT be in the city, and want go off to nature and perform some Wiccan practices during the supermoon, here are some places that you may want to consider.
The Slooh Community Observatory will have a live broadcast of the moon starting on November 13 at 4 p.m. Pacific.