'Supermoon' to brighten up skies for stargazers tonight | The Daily Star
02:18 PM, December 03, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 PM, December 03, 2017

'Supermoon' to brighten up skies for stargazers tonight

Skywatchers could catch a glimpse of a bigger and brighter full moon than usual tonight," NASA says in a statement on Friday Dec 1, 2017.

The Dec 3 full moon will be the first of three consecutive supermoons, including a lunar eclipse, reports SPACE.com.

The other supermoons will happen on Jan 1 and Jan 31, 2018.  If you only have time to catch one of them, be sure to check out the "extra-special" Jan 31 supermoon, NASA further added in that statement.

The late January supermoon will take place during a total lunar eclipse visible from western North America, the Pacific and Eastern Asia. It will also be a blue moon, too.

A supermoon occurs  when the full moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, which is also called the perigee. That makes the moon look extra-close and extra bright — up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its furthest point from Earth, called the apogee, reports SPACE.com.

Pair that up with a lunar eclipse, and you will have a spectacular view of the moon turning dark as it moves out of the sun's light and into the shadow of the Earth. Only the light reflected off Earth will be visible on its surface, producing a ruddy red-brown color on the moon's surface during totality.

"The lunar eclipse on Jan 31 will be visible during moonset. Folks in the eastern United States, where the eclipse will be partial, will have to get up in the morning to see it,” said Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in the same statement. "But it’s another great chance to watch the moon."

Supermoon full moons will occur on Dec 3, 2017, Jan 1, 2018 and Jan 31, 2018. The Jan 31 supermoon will also be a blue moon and occur during a total lunar eclipse. Photo Courtesy: NASA/Science@NASA

As if the Jan 31 moon isn't special enough, that supermoon lunar eclipse will also be a "blue moon." That's a term for the second full moon in a month. Blue moons only happen about every 2.5 years, so it's worth going outside to take a look.

Regardless of which supermoon you choose to view, be aware that it's hard for amateur astronomers to distinguish the full moon from a supermoon – the size difference isn't all that great. If the moon is just on the horizon, it may look a lot bigger, but that's an illusion. Scientists call it the "moon illusion" and it may be because your brain compares it to nearby objects, or because your brain believes objects on the horizon are larger than objects in the sky.

You don't need any special equipment to look at the full moon – just your eyes, and if you live in colder climates, some warm clothing. The moon will be visible even in areas with light pollution. To look at the moon in more detail, you can use a pair of binoculars   or a small telescope.

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