December ‘Cold Moon’ supermoon set to be brightest of the year – here’s how to get the best view
The brightest supermoon of the year will light up the sky this weekend.
Skygazers will be treated to a bigger and brighter moon as it moves closer to Earth.
December’s full moon, which is traditionally known as the Cold Moon, will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than usual on Sunday.
Tom Kerss, an astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich, said Sunday would be the best day to view the moon.
He added: ‘This year’s Cold Moon is closer to us than the average full moon this year; close enough to qualify as a supermoon, according to the widely accepted definition.
‘The moon will reach its highest point above the horizon at midnight local time. This is when, weather permitting, it will appear at its clearest and brightest.’
The moon has a slightly elliptical orbit and does not move around the Earth in a perfect circle.
This weekend’s supermoon will be 222,761 miles from Earth, closer than its average 238,900 miles.
It will appear larger than usual due to an optical illusion, rather than its proximity.
Mr Kerss said: “During moonrise and moonset, you might think the moon looks unusually large, but this is an illusion created in the mind when it appears close to the horizon.
‘In fact, the change in the moon’s apparent size throughout its orbit is imperceptible to the unaided eye.
‘Nevertheless, the ‘moon illusion’ can be a dramatic effect, and with the moon rising so early, there will be ample opportunities to see its apparently huge face juxtaposed with the eastern skyline.’
For those wanting to see the Earth’s natural satellite in greater detail, Mr Kerss advises using binoculars or a telescope and observing the dark maria, which are large, dark plains on the surface of the moon.
He said: ‘It’s perfectly safe to look directly at the full moon, even with a telescope or binoculars.
‘You can see many of the moon’s larger features, although at full moon its surface looks rather flat, since we don’t see any shadows cast across it until its night side begins to creep into view.
‘However it is possible to see the dark maria in stark contrast to the brilliant highlights of the full moon if you allow your eyes to adjust and pick out these ancient volcanic flood plains, once filled with lava.’
The first supermoon of the year was visible on January 12, and the second was on November 3.