Saturday, March 19, 2011
'Supermoon' rising this weekend
The moon's closest orbital point to the earth and its full stage coincide to make it appear far bigger and brighter than usual.
Moon over city hall
The moon rises over L.A. City Hall on Friday. Saturday's full moon will be the closest since 1993. (Scott Harrison, Los Angeles Times / March 18, 2011)
As the sun sets in the west on Saturday, the biggest, brightest moon in about 20 years will be begin peeking over the Eastern horizon.
The so-called "supermoon" will appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal, according to NASA.
Because the moon's orbit is oval, there is a point where it is the closest to the Earth, known as its perigee. The farthest point is known as its apogee.
On Saturday, the moon's closest perigee of the year happens to occur within one hour of the monthly astronomical phase of the full moon, which together will create the rarely seen spectacle of illumination and size, said Geoff Chester, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.
"It will be the closest full moon we've had since 1993, so if you want to wait another 19 years or so for your next crack at it, then do so," Chester said. "But it's a great excuse to go out and look at the moon."
Those who hope to maximize their viewing experience should set their sights on the distant horizon with objects, like mountains or buildings, in the foreground. As the moon rises behind those objects, it creates an optical illusion that makes it appear even bigger to the naked eye, Chester said.
"I often say the moon is looked over and overlooked. People don't take that much time out of their busy lives to appreciate it," Chester said. "It's an extraordinary thing."
However moon-gazers in the Los Angeles area may be out of luck, as rainstorms will begin working their way into the region late Friday and through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. With a 40% chance of rain in the evening, the clouds may obscure even a giant shining moon.
Posted by Laura at 6:17 AM