Brightest supermoon in seventy years

Last night was the brightest supermoon in seventy years, or so they say. Unfortunately I was not doing anything special for the occasion although I did get to spend a few minutes out at the observatory and took a few pictures.

So what exactly is a supermoon? Let’s start answering that question with the fact that the moon’s orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle but more of an ellipse. At times that means the moon is closer to the earth than at other times. A supermoon is when you have a full (or new although you can’t really see it then) moon at the same time as the moon is at it’s closest point in it’s orbit of the Earth.

Put a little simpler, it is when the moon is full and close at the same time.

What this means to us astronomers and astrophotographers is that the moon appears bigger and brighter than at any other time.

Supermoon rising over the observatory domeThis image is the moon rising above the observatory dome. Unfortunately unless you are familiar with the SHSU observatory and what the moon typically looks like out there, you may not see that this does indeed look pretty big. It was an impressive sight.

This next picture should get your attention however:

Supermoon backlighting the observatory domeMost people would guess that this is the observatory dome right before sunrise, or sunset. They would be wrong. This was taken at 7:09pm CST facing east (the sun sets in the west, so behind me, not behind the dome). The light you see is the moon about 20 degrees or so above the horizon.

Yes, it was that bright. How bright? Reading a printed book with nothing but moonlight was not only possible, but quite easy.

When is the next supermoon?

If you missed it never fear, the next supermoon is scheduled to appear on December 3rd, 2017. It will not be quite as spectacular as this one however. If you want something this amazing you will have to wait until November 25th, 2034!

Until the next supermoon, Clear skies!


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