Supermoon 2012: The Science Behind the Event
Illustration and information is from Space.com.
A supermoon is a spectacular sight in which the full moon of a given month occurs at the same time the moon is at perigee – the point in its orbit that brings it closest to Earth. During these events, the moon can appear up to 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger to skywatchers on Earth. See how the supermoon, or "perigee moon," works in the SPACE.com infographic.
On Saturday (May 5, 2012) at 11:35 p.m. EDT, the moon will officially turn full. And only 25 minutes later the moon will also arrive at perigee, its closest approach to Earth — a distance of 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) away.
The effect of this coincidence is a stunning skywatching sight called the "supermoon."
In fact, this month's perigee is the closest of any perigee in 2012 (they vary by about 3 percent, because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular). The result will be a 16 percent brighter-than-average full moon accompanied by unusually high and low tides this weekend and into the new week.
Supermoon 2012 Photos:
More photos of the Supermoon:
Supermoon: the perigee moon of 2012:
The night sky on May 5 was animated by the once-a-year cosmic event of the perigee moon. Popularly known as the "Supermoon", the moon appears much larger above us when the elliptical orbit brings it within 221,802 miles to Earth, the closest point. The effect is magnified during a full moon, when we see our nearest celestial neighbor appear roughly 20 percent brighter and 15 percent larger. Collected here are images taken just before, during, and just after the perigee moon of 2012. -- Lane Turner (27 photos total)