Skygazers were treated to a spectacular supermoon on Sunday, Dec. 4. The event also marked the last such moon of the year. The phenomenon of a supermoon takes place when the full moon reaches its nearest point to Earth, referred to as perigee moon.
NASA has called the weekend’s supermoon the first in a supermoon trilogy over the next two months, with the second sighting and third sighting on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 respectively. The January 31st supermoon will also feature a total lunar eclipse, which will be totally viewable from western North America.
Fun Facts About The Supermoon
“The supermoons are a great opportunity for people to start looking at the moon, not just that once but every chance they have!” NASA research scientist Noah Petro said.
Supermoons usually seem 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the average moon, according to Petro. However, a brighter moon is the effect of an illusion caused by the close location of the moon, which makes the human brain compare it to nearby objects.
The term “supermoon” was coined by astrologer Richard Noelle more than 30 years ago. It indicated a new moon or full moon that came within 362,146 kilometers of the planet, as measured from the centers of the moon and Earth. The year 2017 had a total of four supermoons, in April, May, June, and December, going by the definition created by Noelle.
Supermoons do not take place every month because the moon’s orbit changes orientation as the Earth rotates around the sun. Therefore, the long axis of the moon’s elliptical path around the planet points in different directions, indicating that a new or full moon will not always occur at perigee or apogee.
The Full Cold Moon And Its Many Names
The full moon in December is actually referred to as the Full Cold Moon, a name that had its origin in the cold December weather of the Northern Hemisphere when the winter cold grips the land and the nights become dark and long.
The native people of North America called it by various names like the Blue Moon, Big Spirit Moon, and Mnidoons Giizis. The Pacific Northwest’s Haida people called it the Snow Moon. The December Full Moon was also referred to as Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes due to its occurrence near the winter solstice—the day which receives the least amount of sunlight.