Moon to look super-sized Sunday

Published on Thursday, 20 June 2013 19:15 - Written by BY BELEN CASILLAS bcasillas@tylerpaper.com

Skywatchers will get a celestial treat Sunday with what’s being dubbed a “super full moon.”

The moon will be a mere 221,880 miles from the Earth, which will make it look bigger and brighter than at any point this year. The average distance is 238,000 miles, according to www.timeanddate.com .

“So we got a moon that’s closer to the Earth, then full-moon mode,” said Charles Thornton, geology professor at Tyler Junior College. “If we could have taken pictures of previous full moons through the year and compare it to this one, it’s going to be bigger. Slightly bigger,”

The moon will be 14 percent closer and appear 30 percent brighter Sunday. The moon will rise at 8:50 p.m. over East Texas and set at 6:30 a.m. Monday, according to www.timeanddate.com .

The moon’s orbit hits two named points a year: the perigee and apogee.

Perigee is when the moon’s position is closest to Earth, while apogee is the farthest, said Justin Parrish, coordinator of TJC’s Center for Earth and Space Education.

During the perigee position, the moon not only appears bigger and brighter but creates more gravitational pull.

“With a full moon you have a greater draw on water bodies on the Earth’s tide,” Thornton said. “Both at full moon and new moon, you have a greater draw on the water bodies of the Earth, so you get high tides.”

The effect will be seen throughout beaches along the Gulf Coast.

“Your eyes would find it difficult to distinguish just looking at it without a telephoto lens, but it is very slightly bigger, and it’s become known as super full moon” Thornton said.

A super full moon like this one will not occur again until 2034.

Parrish said, “A lot of people think it causes volcanoes to erupt … cause earthquakes, hurricanes and all these weird things. It doesn’t. There is no evidence to support statistically that a super moon causes those kinds of event.”

The last super full moon was March 19, 2011, when it came within 221,567 miles of Earth, according to www.timeanddate.com . The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan was on March 11, 2011.

The website quotes a NASA official as saying the super full moon should not affect the “internal energy balance” of the Earth, seeing as lunar tides occur daily.

So there will be only a small difference in tidal forces because of the slight increase in the moon’s gravitational pull.