With mostly clear skies expected here in the Hoosier State through the second half of the weekend, find a high perch and look to the east-northeast just after sunset Sunday evening to see the only supermoon of 2017.
The moon’s average distance from Earth is 238,000 miles, but its’ orbit isn’t a perfect circle, so the distance varies through a calendar year. This weekend, the full moon will approximately coincide with the perigee, or its’ closest point in the lunar orbit.
The moon will become full at 10:47 a.m. Sunday morning and reach perigee December 4th (Monday) at 3:45 a.m. making the visible full moon that evening/night appear up to 14% larger and nearly 30% brighter than our normal full moons. While it’s a slim difference, sky gazers and photographers will likely be out in full force to view and capture photos this weekend.
To see the abnormally large moon, you’ll want to find a high perch or have a clear view to the east-northeast just after sunset this Sunday evening. The moon will rise at 66° ENE at 5:51 p.m.
The “moon illusion” will be in full effect as it rises over the horizon, where the moon looks even larger. No one knows exactly why it happens, but it is just an optical illusion.
This moon, being the first full moon in December, will also be called the “Cold Moon,” a sign that winter and colder temperatures are here. A variety of names for different full moons have been used for centuries to signify different agricultural and hunting periods across the globe, more or less a natural calendar.
Last month’s Beaver Moon symbolized the Algonquin tribe’s beaver trap setting season which helped the tribe build up their fur supply for the winter ahead.
January’s first full moon will be called the Wolf Moon (also a supermoon) named by Native Americans and medieval Europeans who recognized the animals’ howls as a sign of mid-winter. While we have been starved of supermoons in 2017, next month will produce two! We’ll have a rare, blue supermoon on January 31st.
Outside of supermoons, you’ll also want to keep your eyes on the skies towards the middle of this month… The Geminids will peak by December 14th, which looks to produce up to 120 meteors per hour.