What Do You Do With a Supermoon?

The "Supermoon" of March 19, 2011 (r...

The “Supermoon” of March 19, 2011 (right), compared to a rather “average” moon of December 20, 2010 (left): note the size difference. Images by Marco Langbroek, the Netherlands, using a Canon EOS 450D + Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 180mm lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I’ll get into it too.  Lots of others are writing about the Supermoon.  Essentially, the moon will be at the closest point in its orbit tonight at the same time as the full moon, so it is said that the moon will be up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than at other times.  Astronomer Phil Plait with Bad Astronomy says that the moon won’t actually appear noticeably different.  I’ll take his word for it…I won’t argue with a real scientist about something like that.  He also called all the talk “Supermoon Silliness”.  Well, I’m not sure I would go that far.

Lots of folks will use the “Supermoon” hype as a reason to get excited about the moon, teach their kids about the moon, blog about the moon…or just go outside and look at the moon, through telescopes or otherwise.  Now if a full moon were the best time to view the moon through a telescope, then maybe you might see details tonight that you have missed at other full moons.

If you do look at the moon through a telescope tonight, you’ll see a lot more if you use a filter of some kind.  The full moon is bright…no really, I mean it.  You might not see much more than a temporary loss of your night vision.  However, if all you plan to do is teach your kids how to aim that cheap telescope you bought them for Christmas, then great!  The full moon is the easiest target in the world to hit with a telescope without going to jail.

Seriously though, wait until the moon is half-lit and half-dark (First or Last Quarter) if you want some truly amazing telescope viewing.  Not only is the moon directly overhead at what may be more reasonable hours, but it’s only 10% as bright and the shadows add such contrast that the details practically jump out at you.  Watch the wonder in a child’s eyes when they see the moon this way.  That child looking with wide eyes through the viewfinder might just be the next person to go there.  Maybe you’ll help them get the astronomer bug, which in turn might help you help them focus better on their school work.

Here are some other nice full moon activities that might be 14% nicer tonight… 

Cross Country Night Skiing

I’ve done this.  The full moon reflects off of the snow to light up everything top and bottom so you can see for miles.  Nothing beats the solitude and quiet of the mountains at night and with the sparkling spring snow lit by the grey-blue moonlight the effect is almost magical.  If you CC Ski, and live where there is still snow somewhere close by, then it might be a good time for you to find a good safe trail and get in your last go of the season.

Fine dining

Whether on the beach or a roof-top veranda, dining under moonlight is something everyone should try at least once.  No candles are needed during a full moon, but they make a nice addition.  Even better, share the moment with someone you love…which reminds me…


The full moon is the king of love.  If you have something special to announce to your significant other, or you just need a chance to make them feel special, why not let the light of the Supermoon help you give the moment that extra zing.


What, you’ve never howled at the moon?  Try it!  Wait until about 9:30 or 10 tonight, when the moon is high but not quite so high that it kinks your neck.  Gather together all of your pent-up frustrations about work, family, traffic, bills and politics deep down in your chest and pull them up into your throat.  Then point your nose up at ‘ol Luna and let ‘r rip!  It cleanses the soul!  Repeat until either your vocal cords hurt or the police arrive to haul you away…whichever comes first.  😉

Whatever you do, enjoy the moon and have fun tonight.


~ by Bill Housley on May 5, 2012.

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