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Disappointed by the ‘Supermoon’? Here’s what it really is

The Supermoon 2016 is gone! The Moon is at it’s closest point to the Earth all year, plus it’s a full! The Moon’s gigantic! Huge! Enormous! Except — it isn’t. For as much hype as “Supermoons” get they never fail to disappoint, and there’s good reason. They’re not actually that super. Don’t get me wrong. The Moon is amazing. It’s a giant rock in the sky that affects tides, turns people into wolves (allegedly), and we sent people to go walk on it (definitely). The Moon is great every day, but “Super Moons” are overhyped.

Very early this morning, the Moon hit “perigree” or it’s closest distance to the Earth in its orbit. That puts it at 221,824 miles from Earth. At it’s farthest — or “apogee” — it’s 252,581 miles away. That’s only a difference of 30,757 miles. According to NASA, this Super Moon will be up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than an ordinary full moon. The boost in brightness is kind of impressive if you have a clear night. I’m writing this around midnight and there are a few wimpy clouds drifting through the sky. It’s bright enough that it looks like dawn is about to break outside. The brightness is noticeable, but here’s what 14% larger looks like:

The Moon

Blown up, you can see there’s a pretty significant difference. That’s why astronomers recommend catching the Super Moon as it rises or sets, because with the horizon in view it’s easier to notice the difference. If you try to observe the Super Moon when it’s already high in the night sky, however:

Moon Compared

the difference becomes somewhat less awe inspiring.

For the above picture I simply enlarged the same photo of the Moon by 14% and put them on the same backdrop. Neil deGrasse Tyson went one further and compared the Super Moon with last month’s full moon:

So yes, the Super Moon is real. There’s a noticeable change in apparent size and brightness, but I just think “Super Moon” is too grandiose a term. Would Superman be that impressive if he was just 14% bigger and 30% stronger than any other person? At best we would call him Above Average Man, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

One key fact to remember is that during a Super Moon you need to be extra careful because werewolves are somewhere between 14% and 30% stronger than during typical full moons, depending on whether they get their strength from proximity to the Moon or its reflected light.

Stay safe out there, everybody.


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