November 14, 2016 might just be another Monday for all of us, but it’s a special day for the Earth-Moon relationship. That’s because there’s going to be an extra special supermoon, one that hasn’t happened since January 26, 1948 – that’s sixty-eight years! If you miss this one, you will have to wait until November 25, 2034 to catch a sighting as close as this.
What is supermoon?
For the unaware, a supermoon happens because the Moon’s distance from Earth is constantly changing. You see, the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle but rather elliptical, which means it’s closer at some point, and then farther away a few weeks later. Plus, the Moon goes through phases – from new moon all the way to full moon – depending on the amount of light it receives from the Sun and its position.
When these two things – closest approach (the scientific term for it is perigee) and full moon – happen at the same time, we get a supermoon. If you’re interested, the technical term for a supermoon is “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system”, where syzygy means the straight-line configuration of the three celestial bodies.
The thing is, there is more than one prevalent definition for a supermoon. Some maintain that a supermoon occurs when the satellite’s centre is less than 360,000 kilometres (about 223,694 miles) from Earth’s centre. The average distance, by comparison, is 384,400 km (about 238,855 miles). By that logic, supermoons tend to happen every month or so.
Others prefer a more exclusive definition – the time when the Moon is closest to Earth in its full moon cycle, a period of roughly 14 months. Going by that, we get a supermoon about once in a year.
Supermoon timings in India, US East Coast, West Coast, and elsewhere
NASA says the Moon will be at perigee at 6:22am EST for those in the US. That equates to 4:52pm IST here in India, but it won’t be visible then as moonrise isn’t until sometime later around the country.
Here are the times for a bunch of places around the world:
New Delhi, India: perigee at 4:52pm, moonrise at 5:37pm
West Coast, USA (Los Angeles): perigee at 3:22am, moonrise at 5:29pm29pm
London, UK: perigee at 11:22am, moonrise at 4:44pm
How to watch the November 14 supermoon live
Full moons rise around sunset, so if your place isn’t listed above, look east during the twilight hours to spot the supermoon at its best time. Your best bet is to, of course, look out the window. But if the weather is against you, you can find live streams on community observatory Slooh’s website, via a camera at the top of the Baraket Observatory’s dome in Israel, and the Virtual Telescope Project from Italy.