881548208

881548208

Night sky

Photo by: photo by dasar

photo by dasar

The Last Supermoon of the Year and How to See It

The Super Flower Moon of May is this year's last supermoon, when the Moon appears slightly larger and brighter in the sky because it is somewhat closer to Earth. Here's everything you need to know and how to watch it from home.

May 05, 2020

Lowell Observatory astronomer Dr.Larry Wasserman answers some big questions about supermoons leading up to Wednesday night's Flower Supermoon.

What is a Supermoon?

1199698505

1199698505

EDIRNE, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 09: Supermoon is seen with Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey on February 9, 2020. Supermoon is a full moon that almost coincides with the closest distance that the Moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit, resulting in a larger-than-usual visible size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. (Photo by Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Photo by: Anadolu Agency

Anadolu Agency

The term supermoon is NOT an astronomical term. In fact, it was invented by astrologer Richard Nolle. As a result, the decision of when a full moon is a supermoon is not mathematically precise.

A supermoon is a full moon which occurs near perigee (the moon's closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit). There is no fixed definition of how close to the actual perigee "near" is. It's usually defined as within 10%. Because the time between successive full moons and the time between successive perigees is not the same, the full moon occurs at or very near perigee every 14 full moons. If the full moon in a given month is closest to perigee, than the full moon the month before and the month after will be close enough to meet the (arbitrary) 10% criterion. Thus, supermoons usually occur in groups of three successive full moons.

Why Super?

1125890231

1125890231

A super snow moon, also called full hunger moon, rises above central London on 19 February, 2019. The February supermoon is the biggest and brightest in 2019 as it's orbit is at its closest distance from the Earth at around 356,800 km. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Photo by: NurPhoto

NurPhoto

Note that "super" is a bit of an exaggeration. A typical supermoon is 14% bigger in diameter and 30% brighter than a typical non-supermoon. But, while this might be noticed if both moons were in the sky at the same time, most people will not notice the difference between a supermoon this month and a non-supermoon a few months ago. So, without the hype made about the topic in the media, most people would never be aware of the phenomenon.

Finally, Are All Moons Super?

1143948048

1143948048

Full moon over an ancient tower. Benicassim, Castellón, Spain

Photo by: Manuel Breva Colmeiro

Manuel Breva Colmeiro

A supermoon should not be confused with the well-known optical illusion that occurs with every full moon. When a full moon is close to the horizon it appears larger to the eye that it does when it is higher in the sky.

How to Watch the Final Supermoon of 2020

Join Lowell Observatory on Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30P AZ/PT for a live stream of this last supermoon of 2020. Moonrise is at 6:41pm PT in Flagstaff, Arizona. They will also identify Apollo moon landing sites and other features visible on the Moon.

Next Up

Something Funky is Happening to the Earth’s Magnetic Field

Recently a weak spot in the Earth's magnetic field over the southern Atlantic Ocean has been getting weaker, which could signal the beginnings of a global magnetic reversal event. Or not. It’s complicated.

NASA Astronauts Take on Two Spacewalks at the International Space Station

Updated July 1, 2020 Six Days. Two spacewalks. Both Successful.

NASA HQ to be Named in Honor of Mary W. Jackson

NASA announced Wednesday, June 24th that NASA's Washington, D.C. headquarters will now be named for Mary W. Jackson, the first black, female engineer at NASA.

NASA and SpaceX to Launch a Crewed Mission to ISS in May 2020

For the first time since its conception 18 years ago, SpaceX, along with NASA, will launch a crewed mission to space.

Meet the Not-So-Secret Space Airplane

The United States Space Force may have a somewhat silly name, but it's very, very real. And it just launched a semi-secret mission into space.

Large Rocket Debris Impacts Earth Off African Coast

The fourth largest piece of space debris ever re-entered the earth's atmosphere yesterday and made a splash just off the coast of Africa. Narrowly missing some major landmarks in its path, this piece of a rocket could have caused some major damage.

The First All-Female Spacewalk in NASA’s 61-Year History is Happening

"A-team" astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are set to make history in the first all-female spacewalk.

NASA and SpaceX are Going on a Date, and We're All Invited

Save the date--On May 27th, if everything goes as planned, a rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Watch SPACE LAUNCH LIVE: AMERICA RETURNS TO SPACE on Discovery and Science Channel starting at 2P ET.

The Future of Space Exploration

Over the past couple decades, the space-minded folks around the world have debated the relative merits of the two possible destinations for space exploration. Moon or Mars?

See Comet NEOWISE Before it Disappears

Discovered in late March, Comet NEOWISE has shown itself in the skies all over the world. Dr. David Schleicher, Senior Astronomer at Lowell Observatory gives us some details about this cool comet gracing the night skies.
Related To: