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.
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.
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.
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!