Saturday, December 2, 2017

Still Life with Robin: It's Not a Bird....It's Not a Plane....It's Supermoon!

Photo by Matt Buck, Supermoon over London
by Peggy Robin

On Sunday night if it’s clear – and it should be – you can enjoy the last (and only) supermoon of 2017. Supermoon? No, the moon will not appear to by flying through the night sky like a superhero; it won't look like it has a flowing cape or anything like that. But it will shine brighter and look bigger than your average moon. How much bigger and brighter? USA Today’s article on supermoons answered these question and tossed off some other supermoon trivia, backed by the authority of its source at NASA: 

“According to NASA, [the term “supermoon” is] used by the media today to describe what astronomers would call a perigean full moon: a full moon occurring near or at the time when the moon is at its closest point in its orbit around Earth. A supermoon can appear as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when a full moon is at its farthest distance from Earth, NASA said. The astronomical term for a supermoon is `perigee syzygy.` (Syzygy is when the sun, moon and Earth are all aligned in a straight line.)” []

(Love that term, "syzygy" and hope to work it into a sentence sometime!)

For more about supermoons, including some very clear graphics and animations, I recommend Brian Resnick’s article at

The best time to view Sunday’s supermoon here in DC is at 5:15 PM. Or get up super-early on Monday morning and take a look at it around 4 AM, when it will be at the closest point to earth.

But don’t fret too much if you miss it. You will have two more chances to see a Supermoon, on both the first and the last day of January 2018. If you can see only one, plan for the January 31 supermoon, which is also a “blue moon” (the second full moon in a calendar month) and a “blood moon” – appearing reddish. All these phenomena are explained in the 3-minute NASA video found here:

Any one of these moons might be a chance to do a little “Dancin’ in the Moonlight!  I recommend it highly!    

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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