An ‘extra-supermoon’ will soon appear in the night sky

10 Nov 2016

A supermoon in the twilight sky. Image: Paramonov Alexander/Shutterstock

On the night of 14 November, people across the world will be able to catch a glimpse of a spectacular ‘extra-supermoon’ that won’t be seen again for another 18 years.

While it might sound like a strange way of pronouncing Superman, the appearance of a supermoon in the night sky is certainly not a strange occurrence, appearing every 14 months or so. This weekend, though, we’re expecting an ‘extra-supermoon’ to fill the sky.

An extra-supermoon appearance is far rarer, with this event last occurring way back in 1948.

Future Human

As you would imagine, this orbit offers a fantastic view of Earth’s largest satellite with the naked eye, or even closer with the aid of a telescope.

Unfortunately for those of us in Europe and Africa, it has been estimated to be at its absolute closest just before 2pm GMT, meaning it won’t be seen. Those in Asia will have the clearest sight of the extra-supermoon.

At its closest orbit –referred to by astronomers as its perigee – the moon will appear 14pc larger and 30pc brighter compared with the point at its furthest orbit from Earth.

I see, a big moon rising

Despite the impressive-sounding figures, astronomers have said that unless you were aware of the event, you might not notice much of a difference.

However, the view of the moon rising above the horizon on 14 November could appear to be “quite spectacular” as our human eyes would perceive it to be quite larger against a backdrop of other smaller objects, like trees or houses.

“Any time after sunset should be fine. Since the moon is full, it’ll rise at nearly the same time as sunset – so I’d suggest that you head outside after sunset, or once it’s dark, and the moon is a bit higher in the sky,” advised NASA’s Noah Petro. “You don’t have to stay up all night to see it, unless you really want to!”

Surfers will also be in for a twilight treat as the closer proximity of the moon will result in a stronger high tide, meaning bigger waves than usual.

While those of us in Ireland will be hoping for a clear sky to catch a glimpse of it, another regular supermoon will appear on 14 December.

Otherwise, the next wait for an extra-supermoon will be 18 years – but this future orbit is expected to be even closer by a distance of 64km.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic