CNN Meteorologist Sarah Dillingham
Many of you are likely contemplating your weekend plans, given the fact that Cinco de Mayo is this Saturday, May 5, but there may be another task you should pencil into your calendar: Viewing the ‘Supermoon!’ This Saturday at 11:35 pm EDT, the official full moon will occur at the same time its orbit brings the familiar white globe closest to Earth. This will make the moon appear very large and very bright in the sky, about 16% brighter than normal to be exact. The best location to view the moon at its largest is when it is along the horizon after it rises and just before it sets. Viewing the moon behind buildings and trees causes an optical illusion that makes it appear even larger than it actually is, making that a perfect time to try and grab some beautiful pictures!
So why is this full moon going to be ‘super?’ As the moon orbits the Earth, there are specific times when it is closest to and farthest away from our planet. Apogee occurs when the Moon is farthest away from Earth, and perigee occurs when the Moon is closest to the Earth. On this particular date, the Moon will be in perigee and thus very close to Earth, and by close, we mean about 221,000 miles away. This particular perigee on Saturday night will also be the closest one to Earth that we will see all year, about 3% closer than any other approach in 2012. This is due to the fact that like all of the orbits in our Solar System, they are not exactly circular, and are more elliptical. There is a bit of wobble in these orbits as well, so that is why we see some perigees occur closer and some apogees occur farther away than others.
For any of you along the coasts wondering, “Do I need to worry about huge high tides?” You will notice more exaggerated high and low tides, but nothing extreme. In most places, the “perigean tides” only raise tidal levels about an inch or more, and in some locations possibly up to 6”, depending on local geography. The important thing is, this full moon will be big, bright, beautiful and certainly worth a look. Lucky for us, the timing will be perfect Saturday night, when many of you will already be out to see it.
Please send your photos to CNN iReport to share this big, beautiful display: