The moon is a familiar sight in our sky, brightening dark nights and reminding us of space exploration, past and present. But the upcoming supermoon — on Monday, Nov. 14 — will be especially “super” because it’s the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. We won’t see another supermoon like this until 2034.
The moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical so sometimes it is closer and sometimes it’s farther away. When the moon is full as it makes its closest pass to Earth it is known as a supermoon. At perigree — the point at which the moon is closest to Earth — the moon can be as much as 14 percent closer to Earth than at apogee, when the moon is farthest from our planet. The full moon appears that much larger in diameter and because it is larger shines 30 percent more moonlight onto the Earth.
The moon is a familiar sight, but the days leading up to Monday, Nov. 14, promise a spectacular supermoon show. When a full moon makes its closest pass to Earth in its orbit it appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter, making it a supermoon. This month’s is especially ‘super’ for two reasons: it is the only supermoon this year to be completely full, and it is the closest moon to Earth since 1948. The moon won’t be this super again until 2034!
The biggest and brightest moon for observers in the United States will be on Monday morning just before dawn. On Monday, Nov. 14, the moon is at perigee at 6:22 a.m. EST and “opposite” the sun for the full moon at 8:52 a.m. EST (after moonset for most of the US).
If you’re not an early riser, no worries. “I’ve been telling people to go out at night on either Sunday or Monday night to see the supermoon,” said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. “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!”