How to see the supermoon — and meteors, too

If the full moon looks a bit bigger and brighter in Saturday night’s sky, you’re not seeing things: It’s just the “supermoon” — the biggest moon of 2012. And there’s a meteor shower from Halley’s Comet that’s peaking as well, adding to the sky show.

The full moon of May will hit its peak overnight Saturday night and early Sunday, just one minute after the moon makes its closest approach to Earth. The timing means the moon, weather permitting, could appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its farthest distance — an event scientists have nicknamed the “supermoon.”

The moon will be at its fullest at 11:35 p.m. ET just after hitting perigee, the point in its orbit that brings the moon closest to Earth…

A good time to watch is during moonrise or moonset. At these times, the moon can appear much larger than when it is higher in the sky. The view is actually an optical illusion…

The extra big full moon of May can mean higher tides on Earth, an effect called “perigean tides,” but there is no chance of the supermoon posing a threat to Earth…

If you’re paranoid, you may worry about the moon’s gravity affecting your brain. Stay away from people like that, tonight.

The supermoon is not the only celestial sight gracing the evening skies this weekend. On Saturday night, the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower is due to hit its peak, promising up to 60 meteors per hour for skywatchers with optimum viewing conditions (clear weather and away from city lights).

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is one of two “shooting star” displays created by dust left over by the famed Halley’s comet as it makes its 76-year trip around the sun…

While the supermoon is expected to outshine the fainter Eta Aquarid meteors, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke predicts that some bright fireballs may be visible. Cooke and his observing team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have already recorded several bright fireballs from the Eta Aquarids and are looking forward to seeing more using the agency’s network of all-sky meteor cameras.

Enjoy an evening outdoors. Bring a blanket – at least to lie upon.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s