In June, skywatchers and eager observers are in for a treat: the minimoon, a kind of full moon that is slightly smaller than usual.
The minimoon is reaching its fullest phase on June 9, Friday, at 9:09 a.m. EDT. Unfortunately, the satellite will be below the horizon for those in continental United States, but people in Hawaii and sections of Alaska may wake up early to witness the same full moon.
Before and after the moon’s peak, most U.S. and Europe viewers can have a glimpse of the near-full moon. From Thursday to Saturday for casual observers, the moon would be just as attractive in its fullness. In most of Asia as well as Australia, the peak full moon will stay above the horizon.
Minimoon vs. Supermoon: What’s The Difference?
It’s called a minimoon if it’s a full moon at or near apogee, or that point in the natural satellite’s orbit where it’s most distant from Earth.
A supermoon, on the other hand, is a full moon occurring at perigee, or the point where the moon stays closest to the planet. As a result, a minimoon appears up to 14 percent smaller than a supermoon, as well as looks less bright than the regular full moon.
The difference, though, may not be obvious for the amateur eye: it is only less than one-sixth of the moon’s average diameter. The largest and tiniest full moon, explained Ernie Wright, lead visualizer at the Scientific Visualization Studio of NASA, is a mere 4 arcminutes, approaching the limit of what the human eye can spot.
For Princeton University Professor Robert Vanderbei, while the difference of up to 14 percent may not sound impressive, side-by-side images make it quite a dramatic one.
“Perhaps this visual effect can be explained by noting that the area of the supermoon is in fact 28 percent greater, as the area increases proportionally to the square of the diameter,” he said in a 2015 Space.com report.
So why are there minimoons and supermoons? It’s due to the moon orbit’s imperfect circular shape. It’s quite elliptical, the planet at one focus of the ellipse and its satellite at the other.
Minimoon In Different Parts Of The World
For European colonists in the Americas, June full moon is referred to as the Rose Moon, while Celtic-speaking groups dubbed it the phenomenon Moon of Horses. For native communities in northeastern United States, the same moon is the Strawberry Moon, because the month is known to see wild strawberries ripen in the region.
The name varies among Native Americans. For the Cherokees, it’s the Green Corn Moon in line with the growing season, while for the Navajo it’s the Planting Moon.
Among Muslims, the minimoon coincides with their important holiday Ramadan, or the month of their religious fasting.
But whether one is basking in the Northern Hemisphere’s sun or preparing for winter in the Southern Hemisphere, the minimoon could be worth actively checking out. Another miniature full moon, after all, won’t occur again until July 27, 2018.
Last May 10 was all about the May full moon called the Flower Moon.