2017 supermoon rises this weekend

Alan Olson
December 3, 2017

The supermoon tends to be brighter and appear to be larger than its usual size.

Supermoons happen when the sun, moon and earth align and a full or new moon aligns with the sun's lunar orb. Since the moon's orbit is elliptical, one side (apogee) is about 30,000 miles (50,000 km) farther from Earth than the other (perigee).

Rare natural phenomenon in the night of 4 December will be able to observe scientists and Amateur astronomers, the Moon will approach Earth at the closest distance for the last 6 years. Hence, for those in the Northern hemisphere, it is a cold supermoon.

But for those who can't wake up that early, the moon will still look bigger - and brighter - throughout the night.

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The difference is noticeable for close observers - particularly if the moon is near the horizon, where it can be compared with terrestrial landmarks. Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, will be residents the only chance this year to see the "supermoon".

While the moon is undoubtedly both bigger and brighter than usual, our eyes tend to trick us into seeing the moon as larger than it truly is.

If you're clouded out on Sunday, you can still get into the supermoon spirit on Sunday with streaming video from the Virtual Telescope Project or the Slooh online observatory. The celestial events will be visible on both January 2 and January 31, but those conclude the remainder of 2018's supermoons, so make them count.

"We're seeing all of the Earth's sunrises and sunsets at that moment reflected from the surface of the Moon", says Sarah Noble, a Program Scientist at NASA headquarters. On the three dates marked, step out into the moonset or moonrise and look up for a trilogy of sky watching treats!

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