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The commemoration of the UAE 46th National Day will end with an amazing lunar celestial event, the Supermoon 2017. The Full Moon shall be slightly larger (7%) and (16%) brighter than usual. It will the only occurrence for this year 2017 as part of the trilogy of supermoons to happen next month, particularly on January 1 and the other on January 31, 2018.

The term “Supermoon” is a colloquial term first coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 for the perigee moon in which the Moon is at closest approach or closest distance from the center of Earth on its orbit, specifically less than 362,000 km in the criterion. The Moon does not revolve around the Earth in a perfect circle, an ellipse. With the Earth situated at one focus, there are instances that the Moon will be at the closest distance from Earth and at farthest distance, known as the apogee. Tonight, the Moon will be around 357,000 km away from the center of the Earth. On average, the Moon is about 384,000 km from the Earth’s center.

Not to Scale Diagram of the Respective Distances of the Supermoon and Micromoon (Image Credit: Simone Matthews, universallifetools.com)

To be more specific, certain terms such as “Super New Moon” and “Super Full Moon” were used to determine such occurrence of the perigee moon coinciding with the new moon (having the Moon not visible) and full moon respectively. This one was of a slight size and brightness difference almost unnoticeable with the naked eye unlike the November 14, 2016 Supermoon, unless compared with archived full-disk lunar images.

In contrast, the term “Mini-Moon” or “Micro-Moon” was designated for the apogee moon in which the moon is at the farthest distance from the center of the Earth, making it appear slightly smaller and dimmer than usual.

Size Comparison of Normal Moon and Supermoon (Image Credit: Bryan Jones, prometheus.med.utah.edu)

Size Comparison of Apogee Moon and Supermoon Moon taken last 2016 (Image Credit: James Kevin Ty, astrophotophils.com)

Based on Native American tradition, it is termed as the “Full Cold Moon” because it initially occurs during the colder and longer winter nights.

The best time to observe the Supermoon will be later at moonrise, around 5:40 PM and on moonset early morning tomorrow, just a few minutes before sunrise around 6 AM. The Moon will be situated near the horizon during these times when the Moon would look huge across the sky background, an optical illusion being interpreted by our brains about the surroundings, mainly about perspective. It can be viewed safely through the naked eye, but a closer view will be attained using binoculars, telescopes or camera with long lenses upon seeing its distinct features like the basalt-rich dark patches called maria and its circular holes known as craters.

As mentioned above, just in case you miss tonight’s Supermoon, there will be other Supermoon occurrences on the 1st and 31st day of January 2018, which the latter is also a total lunar eclipse visible in much of Eastern Asia.

Happy Supermoon viewing, everyone! Clear skies!


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Sunrise, Sunset, and Moon Times for Today. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi

Emspak, J. (2017, December 1). Supermoon 2017: When and How to See December’s ‘Full Cold Moon’ This Weekend. Retrieved from Space.com: https://www.space.com/34515-supermoon-guide.html

Mattews, S. (2017, January 2). Super Moons & Micro Moons – 2017. Retrieved from Universallifetools.com: http://www.universallifetools.com/2017/01/super-moons-meaning-spiritual-micro-moons-2017/

What Is a Supermoon and When Is the Next One? (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi


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