New Year’s Super Moon

Get your cameras ready….the moon will appear a little brighter and larger-than-normal Monday evening.  This month’s super moon is one of two full moons this month, and the moon on Monday will be at its closest to Earth in all of 2018.  The second full moon will be called a blue moon, and it will be partially eclipsed…more on that later.

Courtesy: Joan Stabilia

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So what is a “super moon”? The moon moves in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, and the Earth-moon distances are not the same with each orbit.

Monday evening, at exactly 4:56PM, the moon will be 221,559 miles from Earth.  That will be the closest the moon will be to the Earth in this orbit, called the perigee.  The farthest point is called an apogee.  The face of the moon will be fully illuminated by the Sun (full moon) at 9:24PM Monday evening.

The moon will be bigger than an average full moon..it’s closer.  NASA estimates that a full perigee moon, like this one, can be 14% larger and 30% brighter than an apogee full moon.  While the moon is high up in the sky, it will be difficult to see a big difference from other full moons.  Low-hanging moons can create a “moon illusion”.  With buildings, trees and other objects used as a reference point, the moon can appear larger.   The orange/yellow/red colors come from atmospheric effects, when the moonlight gets scattered, much like through a prism, in the atmosphere.

Courtesy: Joan Stabilia
Courtesy: Joan Stabilia

 

We hear about super moons quite frequently, but where did the term originate?  “Super moon” was originally coined by an astrologer more than 30 years ago.  Richard Nolle, in 1979, said that a super moon was when the moon was at or within 90% of its closest approach to Earth in an orbit.  Nolle also wrote about how super moons can cause natural disasters.  While there is truth to these special astronomical alignments causing large tidal fluctuations, there is no real proof that natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are caused by super moons (But I’m open to the idea).  In my opinion, “super moon” is an over-used term, as there are multiple times each year when the moon is pretty close.  Instead, “super moon” should be reserved to the closest moon each year which this month’s full moon is.

Courtesy Jason Major

Below are the moonrises and moonsets for Providence from the 1st into the 2nd.  Weather permitting, the moon will still put on a great show!

The January full moon is called a “Wolf Moon” or the “Moon after Yule”.  The next full moon is January 31st, which will be a blue moon because it’s the second full moon in a calendar month.  In addition, there will be a lunar eclipse with the full moon at the end of January.  While the moon is setting on the morning of the 31st, it will be eclipsed by the Earth, although you won’t see it for long.   There will be about 4 minutes of a partial lunar eclipse to see before the moon goes below the horizon here in Southern New England.

If you get some super pictures of this year’s super moon, please send them our way:  reportit@wpri.com or weather@wpri.com.

Enjoy!!!

-Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo

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