When the splendid full moon rises this weekend, she’ll look a bit bigger and brighter than usual.
Guess what: It’s supermoon time!
Supermoons occur when a full moon happens during perigee, the point in its orbit when it’s closest to Earth – the result can make the moon appear up to 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons. While last year’s super supermoon was the closest to the planet since 1948, this month’s full moon will still veer 16,500 miles (26,500 kilometers) closer to us than usual. As such, it will appear 7 percent bigger and 16 percent brighter than the average full moon.The moon will be completely full on Sunday, December 3 at 10:47 a.m. EST, but will look full for a day before and after.
In New York City, it will rise on Sunday at 4:59 p.m. local time and set on Monday morning at 7:50 a.m. (Find your local time here.) The best time for viewing is right around moonrise and moonset, when it is sitting on the horizon. As this point, it benefits from the “moon illusion,” an optical trick in which it appears gigantic when seen against the human-scaled environment.
Now there will always be the writers who, dripping with too-cool-for-school ennui, will say, “oh look, a full moon” as they explain that it’s not a big deal and that the media is just setting people up for disappointment. I couldn’t disagree more. I mean, I get where they are coming from and the media does have a tendency for overkill. But the full moon is a gorgeous thing on its own and anytime people get excited to look up and revel in the wonders of the sky, it's a win for nature. If the moon is a bit bigger and brighter, even better. And while 7 percent bigger and 16 percent brighter than the average full moon may not sound that impressive, compared to a micromoon (when the full moon is at the farther end of its reach), a supermoon appears even more bodacious.
We are losing the nighttime sky, so consider this a rallying cry to not turn a blind eye heavenward. Get out there and celebrate the supermoon! Find out the time of your local moonrise, soak in her luminous beauty as she emerges from the horizon, throw a moon party. Don’t let anyone tell you that a full moon swinging close to the Earth isn’t worth reveling in. I’ll be drinking my supermoon cocktail, soaking up the moonglow, and posting photos (of a small dot in the sky, granted) on social media. #TeamSupermoon!