There will only be one visible supermoon in 2017. The moon will be closest to Earth during the early hours of Dec. 4, and it will look 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than a typical moon up the night sky.
What Is A Supermoon?
The moon orbits Earth in a circle, but this circle, of course, isn't perfectly circular. As a result, its distance varies.
One of these variations is called a perigee, the closest point to Earth in a moon's orbit. When a perigee coincides with a full moon, a supermoon then occurs, larger and more majestic than regular nights. Much has been said about it; a ton has waxed poetic about its sheer majesty. But for those who would like to see it for themselves, here's what you have to remember:
Supermoon 2017 Schedule
The full moon will occur at 10:47 a.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 3. It will reach perigee the next day, Dec. 4, at 3:45 a.m. EST. The moon is typically 238,000 miles, or 382,900 kilometers, away from Earth, but the supermoon event puts it much closer — just 222,135 miles away, or 357,492 kilometers.
That's the best time to view the supermoon. But for those who won't be able to make it outside for some reason, the Virtual Telescope Project will share a video feed. Also, users can always turn to social media to see photos or footage of the event. NASA staff photographer Bill Ingalls has this to say about those who'll attempt to take photos:
"Don't make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything," he said. Instead, think of creative ways to capture it. "[T]hat means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place."
Again, this is the only supermoon in 2017 that'll be visible to casual sightseers. There are actually four this year, but they "coincided with new moons, when the lunar disk shows a totally darkened face."
Why Supermoons Don't Occur Frequently?
Supermoons do not occur each month since the moon's orbit changes orientation as Earth revolves around the sun. Because the long axis of the moon's elliptical path around Earth points in different directions, a full or new moon won't always occur at perigee or apogee, the point in the moon's orbit putting it farthest away from Earth.
Are you planning to see the supermoon? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!