Hello pretty … the full moon rises between clouds in Berlin. Picture: AP Photo/Gero Breloer
LAST night’s spectacular full moon was a treat for many Australian skywatchers, but in other parts of the world it was merely the overture to a total lunar eclipse.
When a full or new moon makes its closest approach to Earth, that’s a supermoon. A combination of a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse has not been seen since 1982 and will not happen again until 2033.
Although still about 220,000 miles (354,055 km) away, it was still the closest full moon of the year, about 30,000 miles (48,280km) closer than the average distance. (The moon’s orbit is far from a perfect circle.)
Skywatchers in North and South America, Europe, Africa and western Asia are expected to be able to see the lunar eclipse, when the moon, Earth and sun will be lined up, with Earth’s shadow totally obscuring the moon
The event is due to happen at 10.11pm on America’s east coast (12pm AEST) and the ellipse should be visible for more than an hour, weather permitting.
There won’t be another total lunar eclipse until 2018.
This eclipse marks the end of a tetrad, or series of four total lunar eclipses set six months apart. This series began in April 2014.
The 21st century will see eight of these tetrads, an uncommonly good run. From 1600 to 1900, there were none.
NASA planetary scientist Noah Petro is hoping the celestial event will ignite more interest in the moon. He is deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, which has been studying the moon from lunar orbit since 2009.
“The moon’s a dynamic place,” Petro said Wednesday. “We’re seeing changes on the surface of the moon from LRO. We’re seeing that it’s not this static dead body in the sky … it’s this great astronomical object that we have in our backyard, essentially. So people should get out and start looking at it.”
Many stargazers, professional and amateur alike, dislike the term “supermoon,” noting the visible difference between a moon and supermoon is slight to all but the most faithful observers.
“It’s not like the difference between an ordinary man and Superman,” said Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. “It really ought to be called a tiny, slightly little bit bigger moon, rather than the supermoon.”
Blue Moon coming! As seen in the photo above by Patrick Casaert – whose community on Facebook is called La Lune The Moon – the moon has been waxing to full this week. Patrick used a blue filter to create his moon photo, and if you see the moon in tonight’s sky, you’ll see it’s nearly full … but not at all blue in color. Yet, as the second full moon for the month of July, many will call it a Blue Moon.
Calendars will say that this month’s second full moon falls tomorrow – on July 31, 2015. However, for much of North America, the moon will turn precisely full before sunrise on July 31.
Thus many will call tomorrow’s full moon – and probably tonight’s nearly full moon as well – a Blue Moon.
Will either of these moons be blue in color? Nope. The name Blue Moon has nothing to do with the color blue. It’s just a name for the second full moon in a calendar month.
If the moon won’t be blue in color tonight or tomorrow night, what will it look like? It’ll look like any ordinary full moon.
June full moon
Full moon was Tuesday, June 2 at 12:19 p.m. EDT (16:19 UTC). From across Earth, the full moon is shining now from around sunset to dawn.
Beautiful image from our friend Nikolaos Pantazis of the rising moon on June 2, behind Poseidon’s Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece.
Full moon on June 2, 2015 at Hartman Rocks, Gunnison, Colorado, by Matt Burt.
This wonderful shot posted to EarthSky Facebook by Chris Hartley in Queensland, Australia shows the constellation Scorpius – and the planet Saturn – inside a moon halo.
Full moon setting on June 3, 2015 from France by Patrick Astronomie.
Full moon setting on the morning of June 3 from Paco Telescopios in Spain.
Full moon over Rillings Hills near Colorado Springs, Colorado by Forrest Boutin Photography.
Full moon rising over Tucson, Arizona by Sean Parker Photography.
June 2, 2015 full moon behind the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas, from Chicky Leclair.
Not a full moon, but pretty close, from EarthSky Facebook Odilon Simões Corrêa in Brazil.