It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Moon!
by HTE Space Writer Jason Kendall
Look! Up in the sky! It’s Super Moon!
Well, the news is all abuzz about a Super Moon tomorrow night — Saturday, May 5th — when the moon will be full and will look way bigger than normal. What’s the big deal? Because two things will match up that don’t match up very often:
First, the Moon will be the closest it’ll be to Earth in all of 2012. The nearness of the Moon’s orbit, or perigee, happens about once a year. The size of the moon doesn’t change, of course, but it’ll look bigger because it’s closer.
And, second, it’s a Full Moon. A Full Moon is a phase of the Moon when you see it as a perfect circle. This happens about once a month. To do an experiment with the Moon’s phases, click here .
So, when these two things happen at the same time, we call it a Super Moon, And it will be the “biggest” Full moon of 2012.
How does it get that way? Well, first, it’s a good time to understand how and why the Moon changes in the sky.
Let’s play a game. If you take a ball at the end of a rope and swing it fast above you in a circle, the ball will orbit your head! Now imagine that you’re the Earth, and the ball is the Moon. Since your arm can’t extend as easily behind you as in front of you, the ball-as-Moon is probably farther away from your head when the ball is in front of you than when it is behind you. Try it, and you’ll see! The real Moon’s orbit is like this too. Sometimes it’s closer to the Earth and sometimes it’s farther, depending on where it is in its elliptical-shaped orbit.
Full moons are fun to look at through a telescope, whether they are super or not, because you can see lots of craters and mountains and rays, but if you can, try to go out and see this super sight on Saturday night!
Jason Kendall is a NYC NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, teaches astronomy at William Paterson University, writes about Space for HTE, and just totally gets Space! Have questions for Jason? He’ll answer them. Thanks, Jason!