Sunday night, when the moon rises into the dark sky, you can expect a spectacular show.
The November full moon is a supermoon, and it’s especially grand because it’s the closest full moon to Earth since 1948.
According to NASA, we won’t see another moon this magnificent until 2034.
To help us understand the supermoon, The Gazette talked to Dr. Valerie Rapson, outreach astronomer at the Dudley Observatory at miSci in Schenectady.
Rapson grew up in Rochester. She has a doctorate from Rochester Institute of Technology in astrophysical sciences and technology and a bachelor’s in astronomy from the University of Rochester.
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Headed out to see the supermoon Sunday night? Send your photos of the supermoon, along with your name and the location the photos were taken, to [email protected] and we’ll publish them at dailygazette.com.
Need tips on shooting the supermoon like a pro? Check out this guide from NASA.
Rapson plans to watch the moon from her home in Rotterdam.
Q: What exactly is a supermoon?
A: A supermoon is any time a full moon or a nearly full moon appears larger in the sky than normal. This happens because as it orbits around planet Earth sometimes it’s a little bit closer and sometimes a little bit farther away. So when the full moon happens to line up with the point where the moon is closest to Earth, it looks bigger and we call it a supermoon.
Q: The full moon in October was beautiful. Why is everyone so excited about this one?
A: They technically define a supermoon as any time when it’s 90 percent larger than normal. This time we’re getting a full moon at almost the exact point when the moon is physically closest to Earth, so this is going to be the most super supermoon we’ve had. This is as big as the full moon will ever look to us.
Q: What is the best day and time to see it?
A: Here in the Capital Region, you want to look the night of Nov. 13 (Sunday night) because the actual supermoon point occurs the morning of Nov. 14. It will be daytime for us, so it’s only the people on the other side of Earth who will see the full moon at that time. You want to look the night of Nov. 13 pretty much right after sunset until sunrise.
Q: What will it look like? Will it look like last month’s moon?
A: It’s going to look pretty much the same. You might notice that it’s a little bit larger and brighter, but we’re only talking about something 10 to 14 percent bigger than the normal full moon. And all of the features look the same, they will just be a little more clear because it’s bigger.
Q: Will it look the same all over the world?
A: Yes. The moon always shows the same face to planet Earth, so wherever it’s nighttime, part of the Earth is always going to see the same side of the full moon.
Q:Can a supermoon cause damaging ocean tides?
A: The tides are a little bit bigger but we don’t expect anything disastrous to come.
Q: What did ancient peoples think of an event like this?
A: The ancient people were a little more nervous because they didn’t understand why the moon was getting larger. All they knew is that it must be getting closer. This frightened them and so did the moon looking red during an eclipse or orange when it’s harvest moon and low in the horizon.
Q: Are supermoons of interest to scientists?
A: The scientists now really understand the orbit of the moon so we can predict these for many years to come. The scientists have it all figured out; it’s really more the public that’s hyping it up a bit because it’s cool to look at.
Q: What happens at the Dudley Observatory?
A: The Dudley Observatory has a business partnership with miSci. We are running astronomy education programs and observing programs through the museum, on museum property. Most of our events are held at miSci, and hopefully next year we will start a campaign for money to build an observatory on miSci property. We have small portable telescopes that we set up outside on the patio at the museum or on the grass. There are plenty of people on museum staff as well as local amateur astronomers who bring their telescopes out and let the public look through them at the planets, the moon, anything that’s out that night.
Q: What does an outreach astronomer do?
A: Communicate astronomy to the public. Any new discoveries, anything cool that you can see in the sky, it’s my job to communicate that with everybody via presentations or posting online, doing activities for kids, anything related to astronomy education.
Q: How did you get interested in astronomy?
A: I watched a lot of “Star Trek” as a kid, thanks to my father. It really got me interested in learning more about outer space. In high school, I realized that I really loved physics. I really had this love for knowing how the universe works.
Q: Can you recommend a YouTube video about the moon?
For more about Dudley Observatory, visit dudleyobservatory.org or Facebook.
The next skywatching event at miSci is Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.
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