The Supermoon is upon us tonight, and everyone has a chance to see this phenomenon. It's not as rare as a total solar eclipse, but it's still the only visible supermoon of 2017.
You can watch a live-stream of the supermoon below.
The moon will shine 16 percent brighter and look 7 percent larger than it usually does tonight, notes CNN. According to NBC News, the moon will appear largest after 12:45 a.m. ET. If you can't be up that late tonight, you can still see it overnight and until sunrise Monday morning.
Although this is the only full Supermoon of 2017, it's still nowhere near as exciting as August's total solar eclipse or the November 2016 supermoon. As NASA notes, the November 2016 supermoon was the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. There won't be another supermoon like it until 2034.
Astronomers suggest the best time to watch the supermoon is right after sunset and in the minutes before sunrise, CNN reports. The best time to enjoy it is right after moonrise when it is above the horizon.
The moon doesn't always look this big because of its elliptical orbit. It doesn't orbit the Earth in a perfect circle, meaning that sometimes it is closer or father away. If the moon reaches its closest point when it's a full moon (or new moon), it will be a supermoon.
If you miss tonight's supermoon, don't fret. The Supermoon happens again on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018.
Photo credit: NASA
Moonrise & Moonset Times
Moonrise in New York was at 4:59 p.m., according to TimeAndDate.com. Moonset in New York is at 7:50 a.m. Monday. You can use TimeAndDate.com to look up your local moonrise and moonset times.
You have plenty of time to see the supermoon, even if you don't like to stay up late.
"I've been telling people to go out at night on either Sunday or Monday night to see the supermoon," Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, said last year. "The difference in distance from one night to the next will be very subtle, so if it's cloudy on Sunday, go out on Monday. Any time after sunset should be fine. Since the moon is full, it'll rise at nearly the same time as sunset, so I'd suggest that you head outside after sunset, or once it's dark and the moon is a bit higher in the sky. You don't have to stay up all night to see it, unless you really want to!"
The moon doesn't always look this big because of its elliptical orbit. It doesn't orbit the Earth in a perfect circle, meaning that sometimes it is closer or father away. If the moon reaches its closest point when it's a full moon (or new moon), it will be a supermoon.prevnext
Why Don't We See a Supermoon Every Night?
Supermoons don't happen every night thanks to its elliptical orbit. It doesn't orbit the Earth in a perfect circle, meaning that sometimes it is closer or father away.
The closest point of the orbit is called the "perigee" and the farthest point is its "apogee." If the moon reaches its closest point when it's a full moon (or new moon), it will be a supermoon.
"For this year's final supermoon, the perigee distance will be approximately 222,135 miles in the early morning hours of December 4 (in the United States)," Michelle Nichols, director of public observing at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, told CNN.
The technical term for a "supermoon" is "perigee syzygy," which has happened three times in 2017. However, the other two occasions were at the time of a New Moon, when the moon is not visible.prevnext
Where You See the Supermoon Detirmines How Big It Looks to You
The moon does appear bigger and brighter tonight, but your eyes might be tricking you into thinking it looks even bigger. It all depends on where you see the supermoon.
"When you look at it from near the horizon, there's an optical illusion," Nichols explained to CNN. If you look at it low on the horizon, it looks huge. There's a technical term for this too. It's called a "moon illusion."
In fact, Nichols said the supermoon isn't even that much bigger than a typical full moon.
"If you stretch out your arm at full length, and stretch out your thumb, and compare the size of the full moon in the sky to the size of your thumb, you'll notice the width of the full moon compared to the size of your thumb; you can put four full moons across the width of your thumb," she said.
Neil deGrasse Tyson also isn't really impressed with the supermoon. "The Super Moon will fit easily in the field of view through a simple drinking straw. Try it," he tweeted.
The Super Moon will fit easily in the field of view through a simple drinking straw. Try it.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 3, 2017
How To Take Good Pictures of the Supermoon
Although the supermoon isn't that rare, you'll still see plenty of people posting pictures of it on social media. NASA photographer Bill Ingalls told CNN that you have to make sure your smartphones focus on the right light balance.
"Tap the screen and hold your finger on the object (in this case, the moon) to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure," he explained.
Ingalls suggests DSLR camera users have a person or landmark in the picture to compare the size of the moon to.
"Often I find when the moon is near the horizon I have a better chance of incorporating it with a landmark or person, but there are no rules and sometimes a tall object such as the Washington Monument here in DC can be used when the moon is at a very high angle," Ingalls said.prevnext
The Next Supermoon
Again, if you can't get outside to see the supermoon tonight, you don't have that much longer to wait for another one. As Space.com notes, it's the first part of a "Supermoon Trilogy."
The next supermoon will happen on Jan. 1, 2018. The threequel comes out on Jan. 31, when the supermoon will actually look red-brown in color since it will also be a lunar eclipse.0comments
"The lunar eclipse on Jan. 31 will be visible during moonset. Folks in the eastern United States, where the eclipse will be partial, will have to get up in the morning to see it," Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "But it's another great chance to watch the moon."
The Jan. 31 moon is also a "blue moon," since it's the second full moon of the month. That only happens every two and a half years.prev