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Check the sky Sunday, Monday night for 'extra-super' supermoon

By Suzanne Baker • Updated Nov 11, 2016 at 11:56 PM

Local amateur astronomers say this week's supermoon will be "extra super."

Not only will the Earth's largest satellite appear bigger and brighter Monday, it will be the closest it's been to the Earth since 1948, said Eric Claeys, a member of the Naperville Astronomical Association.

"On Sunday and Monday nights there will be an extra-super moon," Claeys said.

NASA said the closest approach will occur at 7:21 a.m. Monday, when the moon comes within 221,523 miles. That's from the center of the Earth to the center of the moon. The full moon will occur at 7:52 a.m.

Monday's full moon deemed "super" because it is in perigee, or closest portion of its elliptical orbit around Earth. What makes it "extra super" is because the next time the moon will come that close will be Nov. 25, 2034.

NASA planetary geologist Noah Petro is urging everyone to step outside and soak in the view. At the time of closest approach, the moon will be setting and the sun rising, so prime viewing will be Sunday and Monday nights.

"Ultimately, people should be more geared toward just getting outside and enjoying it," Petro said.

Since the moon will reach the crest of its full phase just before 8 a.m. Monday, observing the supermoon should be equally visible Sunday and Monday nights.

Waubonsie Valley Planetarium Director Stephanie Rybka said supermoons aren't unusual. There was one on Oct. 16 and there will be another Dec. 14, she said. It's just that this month's moon happens to be a bit closer than it was in October and will be in December, she said.

During perigee, a full moon will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a moon in apogee at the opposite end of the orbit, also known as a micromoon, she said.

Rybka, who also teaches at the Aurora high school, said a supermoon shouldn't be confused with the optical illusion created by a full moon that hangs low on the horizon.

Right after moonrise – at 4:23 p.m. Sunday and 5:08 p.m. Monday – she said sky-gazers will notice the moon appears unusually large when viewed through trees, buildings and other objects in the foreground.

She said while the moon appears large on the horizon, "it's just your eyes playing tricks on you."

Still, weather permitting, it's a sky show the entire planet can enjoy, even without a telescope or binoculars.

"Everyone gets to see the moon," Petro said. "It's a great shared resource for all humanity."

The last time the moon was so close — actually, 29 miles closer — was in January 1948. That's the same year the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series, Petro noted, "a big year," at least there.

In 2034, the moon will come even closer, within 221,485 miles. That, too, will be a supermoon.

Because the full moon falls in November, it's also known as a "beaver moon."

That name is derived from the custom practiced by colonists and Algonquin Indians, who set beaver traps in November before the swamps froze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs, according to the Farmer's Almanac. A full moon in November also is called "frost moon."

The Associated Press contributed.


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