The Moon is Always Super

I still remember the first time I became fully aware of the Moon. It was a full Moon and I was a curious four-year-old kid with light hair. My hair darkened but my inquisitiveness only increased. While I enjoy every single one, to this date there has not been a better Moon than that one, which somehow became a seed of who I am today.

If you are an avid stargazer, you already know that the apparent size of the full Moon as seen from Earth varies throughout the year: the largest possible full Moon is about 15% larger and 30% brighter than the smallest possible one, while most fall somewhere in the middle.

The difference between the largest ones, the ones commonly known as Super Moons, and the smallest ones, becomes really apparent only when you view them side-by-side in photos.

Why does this happen? While we think of the motions of planets and moons in our Solar System as being near-perfect circles, the truth is that they are actually ellipses, with some orbits having quite a significant deviation from a true circle.

In the case of the Moon, the differences are certainly noticeable: at its perigee (or nearest to the Earth) the Moon is around 356,375 km away from our planet, while at its apogee (or most distant), it is around 406,720 km away. That is, for those of you more familiar with the Imperial system, 221,441 miles and 252,724 miles respectively.

Of course, we do not expect every full Moon to coincide with its perigee; and not every new Moon coincides with its apogee. This happens because not only orbits are not circular but the Earth-Moon system is also orbiting around the Sun.

A Super Moon is defined as any full Moon that occurs close enough to the perigee so that its distance from Earth is within 10% of the Moon’s closest approach to Earth.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the apparent size of the Super Moon is less than a tenth of a degree larger than an average Moon, and most would not really notice when looking at it at night. For you to have an idea, the tip of your pinky finger when your arm is fully extended covers about a degree on the sky.

In any case, my recommendation is that you go out now that the weather is nicer and crispier here in Miami and enjoy the Full Moon on the night of November 14. Any excuse is a great excuse to keep looking up and, in my opinion, the moon is always super.

christmas2015fullmoon

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