Stargazer Saturday is our weekly series showing what to look for in the sky.
This week, there is a lot of buzz about the supermoon that will occur on Sunday. (Technically, early Monday morning is when it will be at it’s fullest as the moon is setting.)
What is a supermoon? Our moon’s orbit around Earth isn’t circular, it’s elliptical. This means that there are times when the moon is closer to the Earth and times where it is further away. When a full moon occurs at the same time the moon is nearer to the earth, this is called a supermoon.
A couple astronomical terms to know here: apogee and perigee. Apogee is the point in an object’s orbit when it is furthest from the body it is orbiting. Perigee is the point in an object’s orbit when it is nearest. So when we have a super moon, the moon is at perigee. The difference in distance for the moon between apogee and perigee is about 26,000 miles. The average orbital distance to the moon is 238,900 miles.
How much bigger is a supermoon than the moon at apogee? About 14%, but that’s actually a 30% larger area, so the moon is bigger and brighter, but you’d probably need side by side photos to be sure.
Where should I go to see the supermoon? Anywhere you like. Unlike a meteor shower where you need a dark sky, the full moon dominates the night, and can be easily viewed from anywhere you can see the sky. Many people like to plan to watch a supermoon rise against a city or mountains – it can make for a magical sight!
There are still three planets in the S to SW, not all in a row, starting with Saturn in the SW, and moving South to Venus, and finally red Mars. Pluto is hiding out on that lineup too, but is far too dim to see without a very good telescope.
NEW HORIZONS ASTROBOX
To get into the spirit of giving this season, we are donating $1 of every New Horizons AstroBox sold toward the restoration of the Pluto discovery telescope at Lowell observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.
Remember that the Fall box SOLD OUT, and despite additional stock, we expect the Winter box to do the same. If you haven’t subscribed yet, do so early so you don’t miss this one. Delivery will be in time for Christmas for orders placed by Nov 30th, which is our standard cutoff date, but we will continue taking orders through Dec 15th, or until stock runs out! Subscribe today, or give as a gift!
Also check out a sneak peak at one of the Products in the New Horizons AstroBox: our own exclusive Pluto globe!