05 May 2012

This year's "Super Moon" is coming on May 5

It's not a rare event (there's one every year), but it's one worth viewing.  The video from NASA explains why.  Mark your calendar.

Update: That's tonight (but if you miss it, it will probably be 98% the same tomorrow night).


  1. Back in the 1980s I read a book about tides and the pull of the Moon. It talked quite a bit about what they referred to as "extreme proxigean tides" that mean the same thing as this super perigean Moon. The author pointed out several cases of exterme tides in Belgium, Netherlands, Massachusetts to name a few.

    The principle seemed sound enough. One cannot go by governmental agency pronouncements because they are required to try to minimize any possible threats. As long as they are saying, "move along now, there is nothing to see here," you know they are doing their job.

    I missed the next few extreme proxigean tides, but I did remember to check the dates for one in late 1992. I watched the weather on my new cable TV Weather Channel, and I saw something the likes of which I've never seen before or since. There was no mention of tidal surges near Boston like I'd seen in the past. But the map on the TV screen had to be seen to be believed.

    I saw an entire continental U.S. free of clouds - except on EVERY coast from one end to another there were clouds over the coastal waters and none extending over the land more than a few miles. The entire cloudless U.S. was ringed with clouds!

    I doubt seriously if there is any record of this. I didn't think to photograph it. But that is what I saw.

    I am currently trying to find a list of extreme proxigean Moons, but so far all I find are news articles or blog entries either going all alarmist or pooh-poohing the extreme nature of the event.

  2. I have one more comment to make.

    In the mid-1950s we lived in a 6th floor apartment near downtown St Louis with the living room window facing east. I was just playing when one of the adult guests present said, "Holy cow! Look at the moon! It's HUGE!"

    As it would be on a full moon evening, it was just above the eastern horizon and the dusk had not turned to darkness. I have NO idea what time of year it was. But I recall the pink tint to the sky. And I clearly remember the moon DID look stupendously huge.

    This is one of the most vivid memories of that portionof my childhood. I've remembered it all along, not as a memory that I recalled all of a sudden when I was 30 or 40 or 50 or 60. We even talked about it sometimes as I was growing up, about that night with the huge moon.

    I should look it up and narrow down what the date miight have been. If I find out, I will post a comment here.

  3. Okay, using the Lunar Perigee and Apogee Calculator at http://tiny.cc/9zijbw, I determined that the only time in the four years we lived in that apartment when there was an extreme proxigean full moon and that occurred near sundown was on December 29th, 1955 at 4:28 pm CST. It was Christmas season, which explains the guests. The Moon was 356,796 km from Earth.

    By comparison, the distance to the Moon on May 6th this year will be 356,953 km.

    The Moon that year was 159 km closer than it will be this year. That explains the hugeness of the Moon that night.

    That was fun to find out. I was 6-1/2 years old, and I was able to figure out when that was. Far out!

  4. First of all, in that last comment the date for 2012 was given as May 6th. That was because it will be at 03:34 GMT. That is 22:34 CDT on May 5th.

    And as to that date with the wewird U.S. weather map in 1992, I found it, too, and the date actually rang a bell. It was January 19, 1992. Perigee was at 22:13 GMT with a distance of a VERY low 356,548 km (a full 405 km closer than this year's super moon). The full moon in 1992 was 1:29 after the perigee, but with the extreme proximity of the Moon to the Earth it's effects would have been large through that whole 89 minutes if not more.

    Yes, the experts told us it's all poppycock. Good to see they are doing their jobs and keeping us from panicking like Orson Wells' War of the Worlds in 1938.

    1. If you've not seen the movie "Moonstruck" with Cher and Nicholas Cage, you should see it - if only for the scene with the big moon shining in peoples' windows. Get it on DVD from your library.

  5. So amazing. I saw this phenomenon when my dad was driving us through France a few weeks ago. At first glance (it dropped below the horizon) I didn't believe my dad when he said that that giant thing was the moon. Only when it came into view again could I believe it, and luckily we had our binoculars in the car as well. An absolutely stunning sight to witness.

  6. The moon always looks huge when it's near the horizon, but if you were to measure its actual angular size you'd find it's no bigger than at any other time. It's an optical illusion.

    As for the "super-moon" phenomenon, if it wasn't hyped in the media lately, likely no one would even notice. The moon's orbit is an ellipse, but only barely. The difference between it's apogee and perigee is actually quite small compared to how far away it is. The moon's angular size is only thirty arc-minutes. If you hold your arm out all the way and look at your thumb, it is about three times as wide as the moon. So while the moon does look fourteen percent larger at perigee, because of its distance it's difficult to see the difference without sensitive equipment.

  7. Of course yesterday night and tonight are both totally clouded over. Sigh.

  8. When the moon first rose last night, it was obscured by low clouds and I couldn't see it. It was too high in the sky to look big when I got up at ~1:30am, but it was unusually bright (you could have easily read a book by it). It's been clear all day, so I'll have to take a look tonight and hope that the clouds don't return!


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