- Bill Ingalls / NASA
On Sunday, the only visible Supermoon of 2017 cozied up to the Earth, appearing bigger and brighter than usual in the night sky.
This Supermoon didn’t just light up the night skies, it also ignited tempers online, as astrophysicists argued the moon may not have been living up to its “super” name.
That didn’t stop photo buffs from stepping out to examine the night skies as the moon reached what’s called ‘perigee,’ or, the position on the elliptically-shaped lunar orbit when the moon comes closest to the Earth. And they weren’t disappointed by what they saw.
Take a look:
During a supermoon, technically called a ‘perigee syzygy,’ the moon can appear up to 30% brighter than usual.
- Bill Ingalls / NASA
The closer moon can prompt weird weather and cause stronger-than-usual tides to roll in.
If you missed this one, there are two more Supermoons coming very soon in 2018.
- REUTERS/Jon Nazca
The full moons on January 1 and 31, 2018 will both also be Supermoons.
NASA says if you can only catch one of the upcoming January Supermoons, the one on January 31, 2018 promises to be especially magnificent.
- REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
That night will also feature a lunar eclipse, when the moon, earth and sun all line up. That often causes the moon to shine with a reddish hue, in what’s known as a ‘blood moon.’
“We’re seeing all of the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets at that moment reflected from the surface of the Moon,” NASA scientist Sarah Noble said in a release.
Astrophysicists say the Supermoon often “sounds far more impressive than it actually is.”
- Bill Ingalls/NASA
Jackie Faherty from the American Museum of Natural History in New York says that moonrise (which happens right around sunset during a full moon) is always a good time to glance up at the sky.
“The Supermoon sounds far more impressive than it actually is,” Faherty wrote Business Insider in an email, explaining that to an untrained eye, a Supermoon may appear no more “super,” as in, bigger or brighter, than a normal moon.
Some scientists have pointed out there’s really nothing super-duper about the Supermoon, because it’s only coming marginally closer to the Earth:
“If a 16.1 inch pizza is ‘super’ to you, compared with a 16.0 inch pizza, then we have an issue of vocabulary..:” Tyson wrote in a follow-up Tweet.
A Supermoon is about 40,000 kilometers (~24,855 miles) closer to Earth, on average, than a micromoon, when the moon is at its furthest distance from us.
- NASA / JPL-Caltech
Considering the moon is always more than 225,744 miles away, it’s not a major change.
Still, there’s no denying the beauty of a full moon, regardless of its size:
In the morning light, the 2017 supermoon drifted over the horizon, disappearing from view until next year.
- Jon Nazca/REUTERS
See you in January, Supermoon!