Supermoon Thrills Skywatchers Last Night

Moonbeams created by leaves and fog pour from last night’s perigee supermoon. Details: 24mm lens at f/2.8, 30-second time exposure, ISO 400. Credit: Bob King

I tried. I really tried to see if the perigee supermoon looked bigger to my eye last night but honestly I couldn’t tell. Without a side by side comparison with a normal-distance full moon  I could only imagine it looked larger. But did it dampen my enthusiasm? Heck no.

These small naked eye lunar features can be used to compare the present perigee full moon to next January’s apogee moon. Three are craters surrounded by extensive systems of ejected lunar crust called rays. Credit: Bob King

Gazing at that orange disk in blue twilight I hatched a plan to tell the difference. There are several small but distinct features on the moon that make good references –  the rayed-craters Copernicus, Kepler and Aristarchus and the small, dark Sea of Moisture (Mare Humorum).

Last night I studied them with the naked eye to gain an impression of how difficult or easy each was to see. Copernicus, Kepler and Mare Humorum were no problem. Only Aristarchus took a bit more effort because it lies closer to the edge of the lunar disk and its ray system is the smallest of the three.

Another view of the beautiful rays of fog in moonlight last night. Credit: Bob King

I burned the impression in my mind and will hold onto it for 6 months until Jan. 16, 2014, when it darn well better be clear. That’s the date of the next apogee or most distant full moon. On that night I’ll again stare squarely at the Full Wolf Moon like some lunatic and compare my impressions. Maybe then I’ll finally see the difference between lunar perigee and apogee.

Full moon striped by clouds shortly after it rose last night. Credit: Bob King

I hope all of you got some wonderful looks at the moon last night. After watching its coppery disk come up through thin clouds I returned home, walked the dog and noticed a downy blanket of fog forming over a nearby field. I spent a serene hour listening to frogs while taking time exposures of moonlight, fog and trees.

Anyone who has ever taken pictures by moonlight at night knows that the longer you make your exposure, the more the scene resembles daylight. After all, the moon’s just a stand-in for the sun. Its surface reflects a small percentage of sunlight back to light our skies after the lunar disk absorbs the lion’s share. Finding a balance between “daylight” lunar exposures and ones that still look like nighttime can be tricky especially at full moon. Try it sometime with your own camera – long exposures almost look like they were shot at noon!

8 Responses

  1. Aloha Astro Bob and Everyone!

    Every time I hear someone call this full moon a “super” moon, I think to myself, “Couldn’t ‘they’ think of a better “nickname”?” However, it seems to fit perfectly and I start thinking (again) of what must have gone through the minds of people who lived before the “scientific age” when celestial events like this happened.

    I remember, as a very young boy, when I saw a full moon near the horizon and it looked so gigantic that I actually thought it was moving toward earth on a collision course! Not one to jump to conclusions without more information, my near-panic was short lived as soon as the moon rose a bit higher in the sky and it went back to its “normal” size. Those first few times seeing these “magnified” images of the moon really must have had a profound effect on me since I can remember exactly how I felt at a time in my life around 50 (or more) years ago.

    Even after all this time, I never grow tired of looking at the moon in all its “phases”. It still stops me in my tracks sometimes when events like this happen. Thanks for your great articles about it because without them, I’d not learn many of the fascinating facts you include.

    I’m happy your skies cleared enough for you to enjoy and take those wonderful pictures of this natural phenomenon. Having relatives in and around the Minneapolis area, I know a good portion of Minnesota was hit by a massive storm system Friday/Saturday that actually caused a power outage for one of my sons who live on the westside of Minneapolis; something that doesn’t happen as much as it used to when I lived there! I hope you and your family escaped unscathed from it and no harm came to anyone (or anything).

    That’s it. No questions. I just wanted to “check up” on you and thank you again for your wonderful and educational “blogs”. I, for one, appreciate all the time and effort you put into this as it “educates” more folks about “heavenly events” than you may realize. Keep up the great work!

    Aloha For Now!

    1. astrobob

      Hi Wayne,
      Again, thank you for your nice comments. As for that storm, we got lucky. It missed us. Instead we had chilly, overcast rainy weather with fog. The sky cleared off Sunday afternoon but was partly cloudy around moonrise. One of my favorite night sights is fog in moonlight, so I got pretty excited when I came across this spot. Supermoon – I suppose it’s so popular because it rhymes so well.

  2. Brett Johns


    I agree his “educational blogs” are great .If people would spend 10 minutes a day off . FB, Twitter , Instagram etc. and replace that time on this site or Khan Academy we would have a far more productive world!

    1. Aloha!

      It’s nice to ‘meet’ you. I just wanted you to know that I agree with you in your above comment and “know” many others do too.

      I honestly don’t know if “Dr. Bob King” is the appropriate (or truthful) “tag” instead of one of us “grunts” that need to learn and just be called “Mr. Bob King” (although I’m sure either “could” be true). Perhaps someone could ASK him if he would be “more” interested in writing more “educational” blogs (although one would be hard-pressed to find a blog lately that isn’t or more like his writings when this “Blog” started back on Leap Year Day, February, 2008…ah…the memories, eh ‘Dr.’ Astro Bob?

      Anyway, just know I agree with you and you aren’t alone in your feelings/opinion, OK? OK!


      Aloha For Now!

  3. Robert

    According to a YouTube video which I watched recently, there is now scientific evidence that the full moon may affect someone’s sleep cycles and I found this article really interesting, seeing as in ancient folklore there are many myths about werewolves that come out on the night of the full moon which is also associated with madness.

    Apparently it is said that people tend to sleep better during the New Moon phase and find it harder to sleep during the Full Moon phase (which was interestingly not down to the extra light), but it is said that long before we invented clocks and calendars, we used to rely on the moon’s phases.

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