The biggest and brightest full moon “supermoon” in nearly 70 years lit up skies across the world on the night of November 14th 2016. The last time something this beautiful was sighted was January 1948, appearing up to 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter than an average moon.
The so-called supermoon occurs when a full or new moon makes its closest approach to Earth and, even at a distance of more than 350,000km, it will seem much larger and brighter than normal.
The event, described as “undeniably beautiful” by US space agency Nasa, is the result of the Moon coming closer to Earth than it has done since 1948.
The phenomenon is not expected to happen again until 25 November 2034.
What is a ‘supermoon’?
A ‘supermoon’ usually takes place every one to two years, when the full moon coincides with its closest point to Earth during its monthly orbit.
Because the moon has an elliptical orbit, one side – called the perigee – is about 48,280 km (30,000 miles) closer to Earth than the other side (the apogee).
When the sun, the moon, and Earth line up as the moon orbits Earth, that’s known as syzygy.
When this Earth-Moon-Sun system occurs with the perigee side of the moon facing us, and the moon happens to be on the opposite side of Earth from the sun, we get what’s called a perigee-syzygy.
That causes the moon to appear much bigger and brighter in our sky than usual, and it’s referred to as a ‘supermoon’ – or more technically, a perigee moon.