The Science behind the “ Supermoon “ as explained by NASA

The Science behind the “ Supermoon “ as explained by NASA

Everyone is talking about the Supermoon which could be seen last night. Sky watchers must have felt in Paradise. But still, for us normal people, what actually happened last night? And why is it so fascinating about a bigger moon? Well, there are a lot of things.

What is a Supermoon?

A Supermoon occurs when the moon finds itself at the closest point to Earth. This is called a “perigee”. Last night’s Supermoon was the closest and biggest one the world has seen in around 69 years. And it will not see it again until 2034, again in November. The term of “ Supermoon ” is not even an astronomical one. It was an astrologer who invented it.

Noah Petro, deputy scientist of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission at NASA, said that the reason why this phenomenon happens is because the distance between the Earth and the moon is not always constant. So it changes because of the irregular way in which the moon orbits around the Earth. Furthermore, the reasons why the orbit is not perfect are varied: from tides (70% of the Earth is water) to gravitational forces working against it. Also, the gravities of the planets have a huge impact on the moon’s orbit. So one force pushes the moon, another one is pulling it. The result? A chaotic orbit.

So when the moon orbits the Earth, the lit surface that we see (called phase) changes. When the moon is near the Sun, we see its dark side. Hence, the new moon. Then, a few day later the moon is in its opposite place from the Sun, and we see it illuminated completely. This is the full moon. It is quite simple if you think about it.

Bigger and brighter

When the Supermoon happens, people can see the moon almost 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter on the night sky. And it is logical because objects which are closer to us seem brighter too. The NASA scientist said that these changes are not significant at all but for the trained or passionate eye, the slight differences can be noticed.

But last night’s Supermoon was not actually the biggest one in history. The biggest one occurred in January 1912, when the moon was under 62.13 miles closer. The next one, in 2034, will be even closer than that.

Look at the moon even when it is not so “super”

People should have kept an eye out for the Supermoon on Sunday or Monday night. It was visible on both nights, depending on the clouds which covered the sky. But people should keep an eye out for the moon on many occasions. You can even use binoculars or telescopes to observe it closer. It is a truly fascinating thing. Also, kids should start observing the moon often and parents should encourage them to do so. Who knows? It can spark a passion in them or they can develop to become very artistic people. It is good thing anyway. The idea is that the moon is always nice, even when it is not a “ Supermoon “.

Image source: here

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