Tampa, Fla. – This weekend is a good time to relax, look up at the sky and take in the glowing moon.
On Sunday, the moon will shine brighter and appear larger than it has all year. The Dec. 3 Full Cold Moon will be 2017’s only “supermoon.”
That’s when the moon is full and illuminated at the same time it comes closest to the Earth during its orbit.
“Normally, the full moon doesn’t coincide with when the moon is closest to the Earth,” said St. Petersburg College professor and astronomer Craig Joseph. “And we’re about to get three of these in a row.”
After 11 months without a supermoon — that’s actually just a popular nickname, not an astronomical term — the moon will light up the sky Sunday and again on Jan. 2 and 31. When the moon reaches perigee (that’s the scientific term) twice in the same month, it’s a called a “blue moon.” No, it doesn’t change color, it’s just infrequent, hence the saying “once in a blue moon.”
But the astronomer warned that as use of the nickname “supermoon” grows, so do expectations.
“Just be careful,” he said. “It gets a bit overblown.”
The moon will appear about 16 percent brighter and 7 percent larger than normal, according to astronomers. Some people, Joseph said, might not notice anything or just assume it’s like any other full moon.
The best time to see the moon at its most stunning will be in the early evening as the moon rises and then as it sets in the early morning.
“Then you have another illusion coming in to play,” Joseph said. “The moon looks bigger when it’s low in the sky.”
There’s no need for a telescope, either.
“Everything looks really big in a telescope,” he said. “If you want to get the supermoon effect, use the naked eye.”
The next supermoons are on Jan. 2 and Jan. 31, 2018.