Supermoon Dominates The Sky Tonight … But There’s More

The Full Beaver Moon will rise around sunset tonight and come closer to Earth than any full moon since January 1948. Credit: Bob King
The Full Beaver Moon will rise around sunset tonight and come closer to Earth than any full moon since January 1948. Click the photo to find your moonrise time. Credit: Bob King

Maybe because it’s been clear where I live for the past week, the moon’s been putting on a show like none other. We’ve been able to watch it wax from crescent through gibbous phases as on its way to tonight’s grand supermoon finale. Last night, the moon was so bright and so high, it felt like an egg of light cracking over my head. Tonight, the moon will rise within minutes of sundown and stay up all night. If you get to see it moonrise, you’ll see it again just before it sets tomorrow morning if you’re an early riser. Look to the northeast tonight for moonrise and the northwest for moonset.

Because the moon rises very close to sunset, it will appear pale at rise time in a relatively bright sky. I know you’ll be taking pictures of moonrise just like I will, so here’s the good news. Any camera will do, even mobile phones, especially early on when the light of the moon balances with the remaining daylight. Shoot within 15 minutes of moonrise. That way you’ll still capture features on the moon’s face and the landscape at the same time. Once the moon starts looking bright to your eye, your camera will show it as a featureless disk of bright light if you expose to capture both the moon and a scene.

This is an all-sky map, a full 360 degrees. The red star represents the overhead point. The outer part of the circle is the horizon. This map shows the sky about one hour after sunset. To use it, face the direction shown at the bottom of the map and turn the map to face that direction. For instance, to see what's in the eastern sky, turn the map so east is at the bottom and then face the eastern direction. It'll be easy to find direction tonight: if you face the moon, that's east. North is to the left, south to your right and west at the back. Map: Bob King, Source: Stellarium
This is an all-sky map, a full 360 degrees. The red star represents the overhead point. The outer part of the circle is the horizon. This map shows the sky about one hour after sunset. To use it, face the direction shown at the bottom of the map and turn the map to face that direction. For instance, to see what’s in the eastern sky, turn the map so east is at the bottom and then face the eastern direction. It’ll be easy to find directions tonight thanks to the moon. If you face the moon early on, that’s east. North is to your left, south to your right and west at your back. Map: Bob King, Source: Stellarium

Since you’ll be out soaking up moonlight anyway, use the opportunity to familiarize yourself with a few other cosmic gems dotting the sky. A bright moon wipes away faint stars but won’t touch the bright ones. The map shows the brightest, easiest things with two challenges: Saturn and the star Arcturus, which are very low above the horizon in mid-twilight.

But don’t worry the faint stuff. In the opposite corner of the sky from the full moon, you’ll easily see the brilliant planet Venus low in the southwest. What a spark of pure light it is! Mars is farther up and due south. Although considerably fainter, the planet’s ruddy color makes it easy to spot. Higher up, look for the Summer Triangle, a huge figure almost four outstretched fists tall. Three fists to its left (east) lies the Great Square of Pegasus.

If you now pivot to face east, the star Capella will catch your eye. Because it’s low in the sky and more affected by atmospheric turbulence than say Vega in the Summer Triangle, you’ll probably see it twinkling like a sparkler.

For more supermoon details see my earlier blog. If you live in the Duluth, Minn. area, I’d like to invite you to join me and members of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society to watch and cheer on the rising of the supermoon this evening. We’ll have our telescopes set up in Canal Park near Crabby Bill’s by the Lakewalk starting about 4 p.m. See you there!

*** If you’d like to learn more about the moon, I’ve got it all in my new book, Night Sky with the Naked Eye, that just published this week. Just click one of the photos below to go to the site of your choice — Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound. The book is also available locally at Barnes & Noble in Duluth (and at many BNs) and The Bookstore at Fitger’s.

Night Sky book cover Amazon anno
Night Sky book cover BN

Night Sky book cover Indie

20 Responses

  1. Amy Fitzpatrick

    Hi Bob, can you recommend a good spot in Duluth to watch moonset tomorrow? Would Park Point be a good choice? Thanks!

  2. Hi Bob, can you recommend a good spot in Chicago to watch moonset? I am planning to go to Adler Planetarium but not sure if I will be able to watch it properly considering that the skyline might block the view.

    1. astrobob

      Shrey,
      Tough question. If you could get out on a pier that would help. The Adler’s not bad though, otherwise you’d have to get on the expressway and drive south of the city to an outer suburb.

  3. Thank you! Actually, I don’t own a car. So, a trip to a suburb wouldn’t be possible. I was wondering if 4.30 am would be an ideal time to watch it from Adler. I was hoping to see it just above the skyline.

    1. astrobob

      Shreyanshmani,
      Without actually being there to see how tall the buildings are in the western direction I can’t say for certain, BUT at 4:30 the moon will be due west from the Adler Planetarium and 20 degrees high in the sky. 20° is equal to two vertical fists above the horizon. If you had a compass (or used the compass function on your mobile phone) to find due west, then placed the bottom of your vertical fist against where you think the horizon is and go one more fist above that one, that’s where the moon will be. You can also download the Photographer’s Ephemeris app for your phone (http://photoephemeris.com/) and it will show you the skyline and sight lines to the moon from your location at any time. Cost is $8.99 though.

  4. Bob Nudell

    Bob – are you still planning on selling your autographed book thru EBay? I would love to get a copy signed by the master.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Bob,
      I hadn’t thought about that avenue, but it’s a good idea. I may also try to sell them that way through a local bookstore that would ship the book.

    1. astrobob

      Hi H,
      The supermoon was last night through this morning’s moonset. It will look nearly full tonight and still be relatively close to Earth.

  5. e.r.

    This year I learned our reality. The stars shined their light and I know all. I am their equal. I think I was lead towards “you”…and after I saw the name “H” that left a comment, I knew. I’m not sure if you know all TRUTHS, but I feel it and know ALL. The stars talk with me, they move around and follow me as well. They help me understand and I wanted someone to talk to that can see the same and who knows the same. Everything is a perfect circle in the end…creation and nature are the only laws. I hope to hear from you, and you don’t think I’m psychotic

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