May Supermoon: Biggest Moon of the Year
This weekend will be an absolute delight for professional and amateur astronomers and sky watchers. The biggest full moon of the year, a so-called “supermoon,” will rise this weekend. The Supermoon of 2012 is the biggest full moon of the year and will occur on Saturday, May 5 at 11:35 p.m. This Saturday, the moon the moon will swing within 221,802 of Earth — its closest approach of the entire year.
There is no need to stay up for the event or wake the kiddies, as the most striking views will be in the early evening just after the moon rises (around 7:45 p.m. in East Texas) or just before it sets (around 6:45 a.m. in East Texas). Catching a partially obstructed view of the moon is said to be best because it creates an optical illusion that makes the moon appear even bigger. Viewing it through the gases of the earth’s atmosphere can cause the moon to appear yellow, orange or red in color.
A supermoon occurs when the moon hits its full phase at the same time it makes closest approach to Earth for the month, a lunar milestone known as perigee. The moon could appear as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full Moons of 2012, according to some calculations. The supermoon is the first of six major celestial events slated to occur in the month of May.
The supermoon may interfere with the peak of an annual meteor shower created by the leftovers from Halley’s comet. Just as the moon is appearing at it its brightest the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower will be hitting its peak, NASA scientists say. The brightness of the moon is predicted to wash out the fainter Eta Aquarid meteors, according to NASA, however there is a chance that the brightest fireballs from the meteor display may still be visible.
The supermoon will also have an effect on tides, however, experts say there is no cause for alarm since the increased effect is still relatively weak. Apart from providing a sight to behold in the night sky, the moon’s perigee also has a tangible effect on Earth: It causes higher than normal tides. Because tides are driven by the moon’s gravitational effects, a closer moon means that the oceans will be pulled more than usual towards the satellite. In most places, this will mean a tide that is an inch or so higher than usual, but geographical factors can multiply the effect up to around six inches.
There has long been speculation that the moon’s gravitational effect during its perigee could be the cause of natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other catastrophic events. It is believed by some that a supermoon event may have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago. The supermoon that occurred on January 10th, 2005, was right around the time of the 9.0 Indonesia earthquake and the supermoon that occurred on March 19th, 2011, was right around the time of the 9.2 Japan earthquake.
Every year, a supermoon occurs between 4 to 6 times, but not all are the same powerful, neither by the intensity nor by the duration of their effect. The Moon’s distance from the Earth is not always the same due to the elliptical shape of the orbit and variations in the gravitational attraction between the Moon, Earth and Sun.
Two weeks after the supermoon on May 5th, the Moon will be at apogee as it lines up in front of the Sun for an amazing annular eclipse on May 20th. An annular eclipse occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the Moon.
We want to see your photos of the supermoon over East Texas! Email us your photos of Saturday’s supermoon taken in East Texas to firstname.lastname@example.org.