Categories: Moon

Best Time To Watch Supermoon Tonight: VIDEO

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — The 2012 Super Moon, the largest and brightest full moon for 2012, will occur this Saturday, May 5, 2012.  This full moon will be only about 221,567 miles (356,578 km) from Earth.  The average distance between the Earth and the moon is about 238,000 miles (383,024 km).  The furthest point away is about 254,000 miles (408,773 km).

So the moon on May 5, 2012 at 11:35 Eastern Daylight Time will be around 17,000 miles (27,359 km) closer than usual as it rounds Earth in its elliptical orbit.  The technical term is perigee-syzygy.  A popularized term is “super moon.”

A full moon at its closest point to Earth definitely will be big and bright. But it won’t look much, if any, different than a “normal” full moon and will not have any readily observable effect on our planet except perhaps slightly higher tides.

There is also a meteor shower tonight. But a full super moon will set brighter skies tonight that are not ideal for meteor watching.  So the major determining factor on where a good place is to watch the meteor shower will be determined by brightness of the super moon and the viewer’s local cloud cover.  The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will peak and be viewable all over the world on the night of Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eta Aquarids in May, like the Orionids in October, are pieces of debris from Halley’s Comet Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years.  In early May of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Eta Aquarids meteor shower.  You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Eta Aquarids appear to come from a point in the constellation Aquarius.


Dr. James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, answered questions regarding the supermoon phenomenon in a 2011 interview.

Question: What is the definition of a supermoon and why is it called that?

‘Supermoon’ is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.

It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that at first glance would seem to have an effect. The ‘super’ in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer, but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference. The supermoon really attests to the wonderful new wealth of data NASA’s LRO mission has returned for the Moon, making several key science questions about our nearest neighbor all the more important.

Are there any adverse effects on Earth because of the close proximity of the moon?

The effects on Earth from a supermoon are minor, and according to the most detailed studies by terrestrial seismologists and volcanologists, the combination of the moon being at its closest to Earth in its orbit, and being in its ‘full moon’ configuration (relative to the Earth and sun), should not affect the internal energy balance of the Earth since there are lunar tides every day. The Earth has stored a tremendous amount of internal energy within its thin outer shell or crust, and the small differences in the tidal forces exerted by the moon (and sun) are not enough to fundamentally overcome the much larger forces within the planet due to convection (and other aspects of the internal energy balance that drives plate tectonics). Nonetheless, these supermoon times remind us of the effect of our ‘Africa-sized’ nearest neighbor on our lives, affecting ocean tides and contributing to many cultural aspects of our lives (as a visible aspect of how our planet is part of the solar system and space).

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