What is a Super Moon

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"What is a Super Moon"
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If you look up into the sky and see that the moon is larger than normal, to the point where it doesn't even look real, you are likely seeing a super moon.  A super moon happens when there is a full moon that coincides with the closest approach that the moon makes to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Super moons occur roughly every 14 full moons during a full moon cycle. 

But how big does the moon appear? According to NASA, a full moon that is at perigee can be as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than lesser full moons. The full moon that occurs less than an hour away from perigee only occurs roughly every 18 years, with the last occurring in 2011. However, the super moons that happen every 14 full moons are still a sight to behold.

Richard Noelle invented the term "super moon" in 1979, which he defined as "A new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, Moon and Sun are all in a line, with Moon in its nearest approach to Earth." However, it's important to note that the term super moon is not used within the astrology community, as they prefer to call it a perigee

A common misconception of the super moon is that it causes a higher rate of natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, but there is no scientific evidence to support that, just as there is no scientific evidence to suggest that hospital visits or crime increases during a full moon. It is a common thing that people like to express, but it simply does not seem to be true. However, the perigee moon does cause extra-high tides, but that shouldn't cause any type of issues, according to NOAA. In most places, the perigee moon will only cause the high tide to be centimeters higher than it otherwise would be. Thus, a super moon is a great natural event, and not one that anyone needs to worry about harming them.

Astronomers say that the best time to view a super moon is when it is close to the horizon, as it looks unusually large when it is low hanging and seen through other, foreground objects. If you have ever seen a super moon low in the sky through tree branches, you can verify the accuracy of this. While you may not notice anything unusual if you see the super moon high in the sky, you will definitely be able to tell the difference when it is close to the horizon. 

So, grab a lunar calendar, and mark your own calendar for the perigee moons. There are few things on earth that can universally inspire awe, but the super moon is definitely one of them. Astronomers know exactly when they occur, so it is easy to make sure that you do not miss the spectacular event. 

More about this author: Juan Leer

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