The moon shines in the night sky above the Dead Sea.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If you see the full moon during the early nighttime hours of November 13 and 14 and think it looks overly large, you are right.
That moon will be a “supermoon,” rising at a shorter distance from Earth than it has for a long time.
“It is not that the moon will suddenly be swelling and becoming physically larger; it is rather a visual effect that objects closer to us appear larger,” said Dr. Noah Brosch of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and former director of its Wise Observatory, which is located on a high Negev plateau five kilometers west of Mitzpe Ramon.
“In fact, in the afternoon of November 14, at about four in the afternoon, the distance between the moon and the Earth will be smallest, at 356,509 kilometers, about 50,000 kilometers closer to us than it was just two weeks before,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “The change of distance happens because the moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical; sometimes the moon is close, and sometimes it is further away, with the average being 384,400 kilometers.”
The point at which the moon is closest to the Earth is called the perigee, while the point most distant is the apogee.
Brosch explained that to have a supermoon, perigee must occur when the moon is almost in line with the Earth and Sun, while orbiting on the side away from the Sun, thus allowing the visible disk to be fully illuminated. This is the time when the full moon, “because of the smaller distance, appears larger and more impressive.”
Since perigee happens when there is daylight here, Israelis will only be able to enjoy the supermoon on evenings before and after the closest approach – if the sky is clear.
Unlike a solar eclipse, there is no danger to the eyes if from using binoculars or a telescope. Pictures taken when the moon has just risen are likely to be more dramatic than ones taken at the rising of a “non-super” full moon.