Although March 2021 was astronomically dry with just one weak meteor shower and no close planetary conjunctions, the month will end on an exciting note. On March 28, you’ll get to see the year’s first supermoon, also known as the Worm Moon. Here are five things that you must know about the upcoming lunar event.
What is a supermoon?
The Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t perfectly circular. It’s an elliptical (egg-shaped) orbit. Because of that, the distance between the Earth and the Moon keeps changing. The point of closest approach is known as perigee. The farthest point, on the other hand, is called apogee. The Moon takes approximately 27 days to orbit the Earth, changing its phase each day. When the Moon reaches its full phase (the Full Moon) at (or around) its perigee, we call it a supermoon. If it’s on the apogee, we refer to it as the micromoon.
The perigee lies at an approximate distance of 363,300 kilometers from Earth. The average distance between the Moon and the Earth is 384,000 kilometers. Hence, there’s no doubt the supermoon will appear slightly different than regular full moons. According to NASA/JPL, at its largest, it can appear 14% larger in diameter than the smallest full moon. Keep in mind that a 14% increase in the apparent size of something that can be covered with a fingernail on an outstretched arm won’t seem significantly bigger. Comparing a supermoon with a typical full moon from memory is very difficult.
During a supermoon, that brightness can increase up to 30 percent as a result of the Moon being closer to Earth, a phenomenon explained by the inverse square law. Viewing it away from bright overhead street lights or outside the city can help viewers appreciate the increase in brightness.
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The internet is flooded with edited pictures of the supermoon to dramatize the size of the supermoon inaccurately. Do not believe those images. According to JPL, there’s also a technique that involves using a long telephoto lens to take photographs of the Moon next to buildings or other objects that make the Moon look huge compared with its surroundings. This effect can make for great photographs, but it has nothing to do with the supermoon. In fact, these photos can be taken during any Moon phase, but they will likely be used in stories promoting the supermoon.
Supermoon and natural disasters
Again, you might come across some fearmongering articles connecting natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes with this lunar event. Please do not believe in such stuff. There is no scientific evidence that can link the supermoon to any of the calamities on Earth.
The next supermoons
The supermoon of March 28 will be followed by three back to back supermoons.
- April 27, 2021 – “Super Pink Moon”
- May 26, 2021 – “Super Flower Moon”
- June 24, 2021 – “Super Strawberry Moon”