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Supermoon 2017: When, where, how to see the December 'Cold Moon'

Saturday, 2 December 2017


#SuperMoon #darksky #Vermont




You didn't think we'd go an entire year without a supermoon, did you?

Just in the nick of time, the one and only visible supermoon of 2017 visits our skies this weekend (there were three previous supermoons this year, but all coincided with a new moon, the point in the moon's phases when it's completely unseen).

In fact, after going oh-for-supermoons this season, we're gonna have a flurry of them. More on that later.
For now, here's what you need to know about Supermoon 2017:

When is the supermoon?
The full moon arrives at 10:46 a.m. on Sunday, December 3. It won't be visible because it will have set three or so hours earlier.

How can you see the supermoon if it's daytime and the moon already set?
Hey, it'll be OK. The moon will still be full when it rises at 4:49 p.m. EST Sunday in Springfield, Massachusetts -- or, for example, 5:13 p.m. in Buffalo, New York. So Sunday night, December 3, into Monday morning (the moon sets in Boston at 7:42 a.m.), December 4, the moon you see will be full, and it will be the supermoon.
So why is it a supermoon?
Supermoons happen during a full or new moon when the moon is at perigee -- its closest approach to Earth during its monthly orbit. The moon's perigee on this trip 'round Earth happens Monday, December 4, at 3:43 EST, when it will be a mere 222,137 miles away.
The moon's average distance from Earth is about 238,000 miles.




Supermoon vs. perigee syzygy
Astronomers will say the darndest things. One of them is perigee syzygy -- which is the scientific term for a supermoon. Here's an excellent explanation of supermoons from Lyle Tavernier, an educational technology specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
"Because supermoon is not an official astronomical term, there is no definition about just how close to perigee the full moon has to be in order to be called 'super.' Generally, supermoon is used to refer to a full moon 90 percent or closer to perigee. (When the term supermoon was originally coined, it was also used to describe a new moon in the same position, but since the new moon isn’t easily visible from Earth, it’s rarely used in that context anymore.)

"A more accurate and scientific term is 'perigee syzygy.' Syzygy is the alignment of three celestial bodies, in this case the Sun, Moon and Earth. But that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as easily as supermoon."
How much bigger does the moon get?
The moon's size doesn't change: Its mean radius is 1,079.6 miles, says Space.com. But, it does appear to be larger, and its definitely brighter, than a typical full moon during a supermoon.
The moon can appear up to 14 percent larger and up to 30 percent brighter during a supermoon.
Where can I see it?
The best thing about supermoons is you can be anywhere on Earth to see one*, just like a regular full moon. Weather, of course, can interfere with your ability to see it. And as with any sky watching, you want your view to be as clear and as dark as possible. Open fields, beaches, barren mountaintops and anywhere away from city or street lights are all great places -- but there's nothing wrong with heading outside or just looking out your window wherever you are.
*--Supermoons occasionally are eclipsed, and a total lunar eclipse is not visible everywhere, only along a certain path.
A supermoon trifecta
As noted earlier, we're going to see a bunch of supermoons in the coming weeks -- three of 'em between now and the end of January!
Sunday's supermoon will be followed by one on New Year's Day 2018 and another on January 31, 2018.
That of course means we're also going to get a once-in-a-blue-moon Blue Moon. A Blue Moon is the fourth full moon during a season (spring, summer, fall, winter), or the second full moon in a single month. 
So mark January 31 on that calendar you get for the holidays for a rare Blue Moon Supermoon.
But wait, that's not all!
If you act now -- well, if you wait till January 31 and are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time -- you'll see not just a supermoon, not just a Blue Moon supermoon, but you'll see a Blue Moon Blood Moon supermoon total lunar eclipse! That's right, folks, THREE moons for the price of one!
Unfortunately for those of us in Massachusetts and the East Coast, we'll see only a partial lunar eclipse. But from Chicago to the West, you'll be able to see at least some of the total lunar eclipse of the Jan. 31 supermoon.

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