Supermoon? Super meh

You’ve probably heard that Tuesday night will be a supermoon, the nearly once-a-month occurrence when the moon appears super big and super bright.

Bottom line, though: You won’t really notice much difference from a typical full moon, despite the hype of meteorologists.

In fact, the notion of a supermoon wasn’t even a “thing” until March 2011, when the moon came within 123 miles of the closest its ever been to earth, writes Joe Rao on LiveScience.

Why did it suddenly get attention? Because a little more than a week earlier, the Japan earthquake struck, and someone “dredged up” astrologer Richard Nolle’s definition of a supermoon and his 2011 claim that geophysical forces would create seismic activity because of it, something that is without scientific proof, Rao notes.

There are now about three supermoons a year, by Nolle’s definition, which Rao doesn’t find all that super.

If you step outside and look at the moon on Tuesday night and expect to see something special, you’ll likely be disappointed. At least last month’s so-called supermoon was accompanied by a total lunar eclipse. Still, tons of images are posted to the internet in advance of a supermoon, depicting exceedingly large, full moons from images taken with telephoto lenses, implying that the moon is going to look amazingly large in the sky.

At its closest on Tuesday, the moon will be 221,681 miles (356,761 km) from Earth. But that’s only 7.2 percent closer than the natural satellite’s average distance from our planet. So, while Tuesday’s moon will indeed be the “biggest” in apparent size, unless you catch the moon when it’s either rising or setting — and appearing briefly larger than normal because of the famous “moon illusion” — Tuesday’s full moon will look pretty much like any other full moon.

Some websites claim the moon will be 30 percent brighter tonight, but that works out to only three-tenths of a magnitude, not enough for you to notice.

Even more so since it’s going to be cloudy around here anyway because of the super snow that’s expected.

  • MikeB

    It’s just a matter of time until: This month’s Supermoon brought to you by Duracell – “See what you are doing in the dark”

  • KariBemidji

    Supermoon or regular moon, it made for a spectacular drive into work today.

  • Jeff

    Soon they’ll be giving every moon a “Participation Award”.

    • X.A. Smith

      It’s these Millenial Moons these days. Back in the 20th Century we just looked up in the sky and we were happy, super or not!

  • Ben Chorn
  • Jack Ungerleider

    Super or not the combination of clear skies and the right part of the lunar cycle allows me to work on a project where I’m using a Raspberry Pi to take and potentially stream images from the telescope eyepiece without going outside in the winter cold. (I can see the near full Moon through my dining room window.) Last night was the first full moon since I got the Moon filter for the telescope. Got some good pictures, I think. I haven’t had a chance to move them from the system with the camera to my regular laptop for “post processing”.

    • Jeff

      I had to look up Raspberry Pi. I had no idea. Pray tell, how are you using it?

      • Jack Ungerleider

        The Raspberry Pi (RPi for short) has a camera module. What I have connected to the one I’m using for this project has a removable lens. This version of the camera us modified to use M12 lens. (Usually from small security cameras.) To hold the camera in position over the eyepiece I 3D printed tube and holder for the camera’s printed circuit board. The software is a web cam server for the RPi that allows capturing still images and video (real time or time lapse). You can also hit the preview page as a stream of the video. I’ve used RPis for a variety of special purpose projects. (Some successful others not so much.) This is just another one. Hope that explains it.

  • KTFoley

    “Meh” on the “meh”.

    If the hype will help people to notice the natural world, venture outside, value the environment, and then take better care of it, then that’s a positive in my book.

    • X.A. Smith

      Anytime one can gaze at the moon on a clear night, away from light pollution, it is a super moon.

  • MrE85

    I was in San Diego for the last super moon (the one with the eclipse) and the local residents said they had never seen tides so high before. Some beachfront properties were flooded.

    • Yes, back when I was a kid and lived in the summers on Cape Ann, the full moon always brought the back tidal basins right up the road. It was awesome.

      • MrE85

        As someone who grew up in land-locked Indianapolis, I find the oceans fascinating. Until last month, I had never seen the Pacific before. I woke each morning in San Diego to the sound of sea lions barking in the harbor. Loved it.

  • Mike Worcester

    Has “Super Moon” become an over-used term, like, perhaps, “Polar Vortex”? 🙂

    • Probably. It speaks to the need of our generation(s) to need more, bigger, fancier things to get us interested in that which is already stunning and breathtaking.

  • Ralphy

    No cape. No superpowers to speak of.
    So what makes you so super, Moon?
    If it is because you are extra close, then I guess I should be thrilled I sat next to Super Passenger on my last flight.

  • jon

    Once you’ve seen a super blue blood wolf moon everything else seems tame by comparison.
    Also this:
    https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/superm_n.png