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Today – April 26, 2017 – is the first supermoon this year, but there is no Full Moon tonight. Can a New Moon be a supermoon? Yes.
Rather than a full supermoon, this is a new supermoon. It will happen again May 25 (the most “super of the year) and June 24.
As I have said before, a supermoon isn’t an astronomical term but a popular term to mark when the Moon is nearest to the Earth (perigee).
By a commonly accepted definition, to be a supermoon it has to come within 225,027 miles (362,146 km) of Earth. and that happens every few months. Besides the three Super New Moons, there will also be s Super Full Moon in December. After that, the following full moons on January 2 and 31, 2018, count as supermoons, too. Additionally, some will call the full moon on January 31, 2018 a Blue Moon.
Here is the caveat for this celestial event: Since you can’t really see a New Moon, you can’t see a super one either. The Moon will be in the glare of the sun all day long and will rise and set with the Sun.
You will see the Moon’s impact with higher-than-usual tides since all New and Full Moons create bigger tides and perigee makes them even higher. We sometimes hear them referred to as “spring tides.”
The annual Lyrid meteor shower is active each year from about April 16 to 25. You might have spotted one the past week, but the peak activity this year is predicted to be tomorrow morning (April 22).
There will be little or no interfering light from the slender waning crescent moon.
The greatest number of meteors will usually fall during the few hours before dawn, but the Lyrid meteor shower is just as unpredictable as any meteor shower.
The shooting stars seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, near the brilliant star Vega. These meteors burn up in the atmosphere about 100 kilometers/60 miles above Earth and Vega lies trillions of times farther away at 25 light-years, so they just “appear” to come from Lyra. You don’t need to find Lyra in order to see meteors as they are visible in any part of the sky.
As much as we associate the Moon with night, you certainly have seen it during the daytime.
Yesterday, the Moon was in a waning gibbous phase and I saw it in the light of morning. During this phase, it rises in the east later than it did the night before and it will rise later and later each evening. That means you can catch the daytime moon over your western horizon after sunrise now.
The daytime moon is a nice reminder that or favorite natural satellite is up there much of the time. It is pretty pale against the blue sky, so not as noticeable as at night. Our Moon is there during the day half the time since it orbits the entire Earth once a month. It is difficult to see the crescent moon in the daytime because it is near the sun in the sky.
We always notice the Full Moon that stays out all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. Following Full Moons (the last one was Tuesday) the waning gibbous moon is rising later each night and setting in the west later each day after sunrise.
Tonight is a Full Moon. With a Full Moon and also with a New Moon our only permanent natural satellite is on a line with the Earth and sun. When new, the moon is in the middle position along the line, and when full, Earth is in the middle. A Full Moon always comes about two weeks after the new phase.
I wonder if this alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is part of the appeal of a Full Moon. A lunar eclipse always happens at Full Moon as only then the Earth’s shadow, extending opposite the sun, can fall on the Moon’s face.
A Celtic name for the April Full Moon is the Growing Moon, referring to this time of plants returning to their growing seasons and humans turning to planting again.
No matter what the mixed weather of march may have brought to your area last month, at least some days of April will feel like true spring has arrived.
This month’s moon is sometimes called the Pink Moon, not for its color, but for the color of the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Of course, I am also seeing plenty of yellow forsythia, daffodils and crocuses in neighborhood gardens.
Names like the Full Sprouting Grass Moon and Seed Moon are also growing reminders.
The Egg Moon name reminds us of new life from the eggs of birds and fowl and echoes the egg themes of Easter and Eostre.
The name Fish Moon references this time when shad move upstream to spawn.
This Sunday starts the annual Lyrid meteor shower which I think of as an April spring event. It is active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2017, the peak of this shower is expected to occur the morning of April 22.
Whether it feels or looks like spring or like winter outside your home today, spring is officially here. It slipped under my pillow while I was still asleep this morning at 6:28 am ET here in the Northern Hemisphere.
Our ancestors my not have understood what was happening to our planet from a celestial viewpoint, but they were more careful observers of the world around them and definitely marked today as something significant. Ancient observers built devices, buildings and places like Stonehenge to measure and mark changes in the Sun’s movements. Of course, that was what they thought was happening – that the Sun was moving closer or further from Earth. They may have been wrong on that part, but they were able to mark that today was midway between the sun’s lowest path across the sky in winter and highest path across the sky in summer.
Though we visualize an equinox as occurring on the imaginary dome of Earth’s sky, it is a very real point on Earth’s orbit that is halfway between the two extremes of the sun’s path in your sky. “Your sky” because though the equinox occurs at the same time for all of us. The seasons are based on whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.
One thing you can observe easily at each equinox (no Stonehenge required) is that the sun rises due east and sets due west from where you live. An equinox happens when the ecliptic – or sun’s path – intersects the celestial equator, that imaginary line above Earth’s equator.
Go outside around sunset and sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to local landmarks. You can then use those landmarks to find those cardinal directions in the months ahead and observe how the sunrise and sunset points move southward or northward. I showed my young sons this many years ago by crudely tracking the sunrise moving from window to window during the year from the vantage point of our East-facing family room. It was a pretty interesting lesson in science.
Today the sun is on the celestial equator. It may be springlike outside or it may still seem like winter, but the new season has arrived.