On Monday, the biggest and brightest super moon since 1948 will adorn the night sky.

Lunar spectacle Brace yourselves for biggest super moon yet of the 21st century Image for representation/By Barbara Eckstein, Flickr
news Science Saturday, November 12, 2016 - 13:47

Starry night and a full moon for company, right out of a romantic film scene isn’t it? Well Earthlings, prepare yourselves for Monday, for the biggest and brightest super moon since 1948 (when it was actually 29 miles closer than it will be now) will grace the skies.

Known as the ‘super moon’, the phenomenon happens when a full moon night coincides with the moon being closest to the Earth in its orbit. And according to NASA, the moon will be this ‘super’ only on November 25, 2034 next. The 2034 moon is expected to come even closer – within 221,485 miles according to Associated Press.

Check out NASA’s video:

According to AFP, people around the world should be able to witness the super moon over the horizon, shortly after sunset. According to astronomers’ predictions, the view should be most spectacular at 1322 GMT or (0722 IST).

Why the super moon

There are two points in the moon’s elliptical orbit - perigee and apogee. While the former is the closest point to the earth that month, the latter is the farthest. The perigee is closer to the Earth by about 30,000 miles compared to the apogee, according to NASA.

It explains:

“The word syzygy, in addition to being useful in word games, is the scientific name for when the Earth, sun, and moon line up as the moon orbits Earth. When perigee-syzygy of the Earth-moon-sun system occurs and the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, we get a perigee moon or more commonly, a super moon!”

While the November 14 super moon is as big as it gets for a generation (at 221,524 miles, the closest it’s come to Earth in the 21st century so far), it is not the only super moon occurrence of 2016. The first one happened on October 16 and the third one will happen on December 14. But on Monday, the moon will become full within two hours of entering its perigee point, giving it the extra ‘super’ factor.

How big and bright will it be

As per Michael Slezak’s report in The Guardian, this super moon will be 30% brighter than the smallest full moons (which occur when the full moon coincides with the moon being at its apogee), and 15% brighter than the average full moon. A down side for city dwellers is also the haze and pollution in the sky, which may actually dim the brightness for sky-watchers.

The difference in size as compared to the average full moon is much lesser – only 7%. However, Slezak explains that this is because of the “moon illusion”, which causes the image of the moon to appear 300% bigger than the actual super moon. The moon illusion occurs when the moon is at the horizon than high in the night sky. So a good time for observers to catch the super moon in its grandeur should be when it is near the horizon.

What’s more, the extra bright factor is going to eclipse the view of the Geminid meteor shower, reducing the visibility of the spectacular astronomical phenomenon by five to ten percent.

Where to watch it

Officials in the Irish Astronomical Association told AFP that the best places to catch the super moon are places with nice terrestrial features in the background such as monuments or tall towers. These will act as nice comparisons, especially for photographers who may choose to stay back and use a telephoto lens to zoom into the scene, magnifying both the moon and the monument.

The super moon spells exciting news for surfers as well, given that the high tides will be stronger than usual, with the added thrill of surfing at night.  

So get your moon-gazing hats ready and pray that the skies are clear on the night of November 14! 

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