‘Super Moon’ encore canceled; better luck next moon
Clouds got in the way; however, next full moon could be better
Another 'Super Moon' was due for a spectacular reign and a dramatic setting at daybreak Tuesday, but we'll have to take the astronomers' words for it. Curtains of clouds obscured the show.
We'll accept the disappointment with a healthy heaping of equanimity.
First, we were fortunate to catch the optical illusion of the rising of an oversize moon on Sunday, and, perhaps more significantly, we get another shot next month.
The brightness and size factors will be so similar that if you actually can detect the differences, consider yourself a superhuman.
As Villanova University astronomer Frank P. Maloney says, "There's always more to come."
Yes, what occurred this week was a rare astronomical alignment. As Emily Babay noted in her philly.com item Monday morning, both the rising of the moon on Sunday and its setting on Monday were spectacular.
That's because they came close to coinciding with the moment of the moon's closest approach to Earth in 68 years, which occurred at 6:22 a.m.
Technically, the moon didn't become "full" until 8:52 a.m., well after moonset on our side of the world, but the proximity was enough to make the moon appear significantly larger than usual on the horizons and beam 15 percent brighter than your average full moon.
To recap, on average the moon is about 238,000 miles from earth, but since its orbit is elliptical, that distance can vary by about 30,000 miles within any cycle.
The perigee, or closest approach, and apogee, most distant, occur in cycles ever-so-slightly out of sync with the lunar phases. A Super Moon, not an official term, is loosely defined as the full phase coinciding with a close approach.
Monday morning it was a mere 221,524 miles away. By comparison, about two weeks earlier, on Halloween the distance was 252,688.
The December perigee again will come real close to coinciding with the Dec. 14 full moon.
Around that time the moon will be only about 1,200 miles farther away than it was on Monday.
In wooded areas, the December full moon could be more impressive than this one was, since by then most deciduous trees should have shed all their leaves.
As a potential bonus, any early-season snow cover would add luster.
Regardless, we've never seen a full moon on a clear night that didn't make us feel a little better about living on the planet.
As Maloney says, "The full moon can be admired for a thing in and of itself."