I watched some of today’s Full Moon plus lunar eclipse, but I watched it online. The event received the usual media blitz and it was being called a Super Flower Blood Full Moon with a total lunar eclipse. That’s a lot of adjectives for one Moon day.
I read about it last month and made a draft post to remind me to write something about it but that fancy name sort of turned me off.
The May Full Moon is often called the Flower Moon for obvious blooming reasons. “Blood Moon” is a non-astronomical term for when lunar eclipses make the Moon appear a reddish color. “Super” Moons, as I have written before, is when this natural satellite approaches Earth at its closest possible distance. That happened in April too.
The eclipse is a real astronomical event and was visible for those living in western North America, western South America, eastern Asia, and Oceania.
It may have looked reddish. There may be flowers blooming where you live. It probably won’t look any bigger tonight to you. But there was an eclipse.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow which occurs only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned (in syzygy) with our planet between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon.
According to Wikipedia, there are several cultures that have or had myths related to lunar eclipses. It may be seen as a good or bad omen. The Egyptian, Chinese, and Mayan traditions once viewed the Moon as being swallowed by some creature. The Ancient Greeks correctly believed the Earth was round and so saw the shadow from the lunar eclipse as evidence of that. Some Hindus believe in the importance of bathing in the Ganges River following an eclipse because it will help to achieve salvation.
Eclipse or not, this Flower Moon is called by the Cree people the Budding Moon or Leaf Budding Moon, and for the Dakota and Lakota people, this is the Planting Moon.
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.”
I’ll write more about the full moon of November 14, 2016 tomorrow, but this month’s full moon is the biggest, closest and brightest supermoon of the year. It’s also the closest supermoon since January 26, 1948. It won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034, so this might be the big one for your lifetime. That’s probably true for me, though I’m hoping to see that next one too!
The Moon will officially look big and full on November 14 at 1352 UTC (9:52 a.m. AST, 8:52 a.m. EST, 7:52 a.m. CST, 6:52 a.m. MST, 5:52 a.m. PST). But in the Americas, the moon is closer to full on the night of November 13.
This is our second of three supermoons this fall. That unscientific but popular name for the “perigee moon” refers to when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. If and when a perigee moon coincides with the full moon, the extra-large, brightly-lit moon is known as a supermoon.
It’s worth looking up on November 13 and 14. The Moon will rise in the east around sunset and be highest in the sky around midnight.
I am always a bit surprised by the number of posts and mentions on the news each year when the Moon reaches its perigee. Some people will call last night’s Full Moon the biggest full moon of the year because it coincides with the moon’s perigee — its closest approach to Earth — and so it will appear bigger. That’s why you may have heard a news story about tonight’s SuperMoon. (If you missed it last night or had a cloudy sky, it will be very similar tonight.)
It will still be 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, but that is closer, so bigger and brighter (if you have a clear night in your area) gets a lot of attention.
The Greek prefix “peri” means close or near. The suffix “gee”, derived from Gaea, means Earth.
It’s nice that the Moon gets some attention and that some people who never look to the night sky will do so tonight.
Perigee is part of the broader family of “apses”, astronomical terms which denote distances of orbiting bodies. Since all orbits are elliptical, each orbit contains both a nearest point and a farthest point. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point. That event doesn’t get any press at all.
The name SuperMoon was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979, who defined it as: “a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, Moon and Sun are all in a line, with Moon in its nearest approach to Earth.” Members of scientific community prefer the term perigee-syzygy.
Some people claim that in the days before and after a supermoon, the Earth is more subject to natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic activity due to the Moon’s increased gravitational force. But most scientists and records indicate that any claim of a supermoon effect is unjustified.