Nigerians and indeed the rest of the world are in for an incredible astronomical show on Sunday and Monday November 13 and 14, 2016 – and one, which would not appear again until 2034.
According to EarthSky, on November 14, 2016, the Moon will be the closest to Earth it s been since January 1948. During the event, it will appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than an average full moon.
The moon will be the biggest and brightest it has been in more than 60 years. So long as the sky is clear of clouds, it should be a great time to get outside and gaze at it or take some photos.
It’s what is commonly called a “supermoon”, or technically a “perigee full moon” – a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest it gets to the Earth on its orbit.
What makes this one special is that the moon is going to be even closer to the Earth than it normally gets, making it a tiny bit bigger than even your average supermoon.
But, despite a lot of hyperbolic news written about the event in the past few days, don’t be too surprised if it looks much like any other full moon.
How much bigger will it be?
At 8:09PM GMT, the moon will pass by the Earth at a distance of 356,511km – the closest it has passed the Earth since 1948. As it does so, it will be a full moon, making it a particularly big supermoon.
Supermooons are roughly 30% larger in area and 30% brighter than the smallest full moons – full moons that happen when the moon is at its furthest distance from Earth: at “apogee”. In terms of diameter – the width of the moon – it will be about 14% wider than the smallest full moons.
The difference between this unusually big supermoon and other supermoons – like the ones you could have seen on 16 October or you could see on 14 December – is negligible.
How bright will it look?
While a supermoon is 30% brighter than the smallest full moons, it’s only about 15% brighter than an average full moon. That’s nothing to sneeze at – on a clear night, away from city lights, it will provide more moonlight than you’d usually get from a full moon.
But, anywhere near the city, that difference is likely to be difficult to perceive. And, of course, clouds or haze could wipe out the difference, or indeed cover the moon completely.
How big will it look?
When it comes to the size, the difference in width (diameter) between a supermoon and an average moon is about 7%. When the moon is high in the sky, that difference is something you’re unlikely to notice, because the sky is big and there’s nothing to measure it against.
But if you could compare it to a moon at apogee (when it’s farthest) you would probably be able to see the difference. The image below shows that difference.
How to see the supermoon
Wherever you are, sunset and moonrise are going to be fairly close to one another. If you want to see the supermoon along with a moon illusion, then you should try to see the moon as it rises, making sure to see it as it’s hovering over the horizon. That means heading out around sunset, and looking to the East.
In most of the Northern hemisphere, where it’s approaching winter and the sun is setting early, the moon will rise just after sunset. In much of the southern hemisphere, where the days are getting longer, the moon will rise just before sunset. But in either case, you should get a good view of the moon around sunset.
In some regions, the moon’s biggest illumination – when it is most full – will actually be either 13 or 15 November. But on 14 November, it will be about 99% illuminated everywhere. And that’s when the moon will be at its closest to the Earth.