The pink supermoon rises over the Shuswap on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (File photo)

The pink supermoon rises over the Shuswap on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (File photo)

Column: Looking forward to May supermoon, June solar eclipse

Great Outdoors by James Murray

  • Apr. 29, 2021 9:00 a.m.

By James Murray

Contributor

All I could do was gaze at it in absolute amazement.

For there, right in front of me, hanging in the night sky, was the largest full moon I’ve seen in years.

It truly did live up to its name – a super moon. As the night sky grew darker the moon seemed to take on a slight pinkish cast.

According to Wikipedia, a supermoon is said to occur when the moon is within 90 per cent of perigree or its closest approach to planet Earth in orbit. All I know is that the other night’s super moon lit up the night sky like a huge lantern.

April 26th’s full moon is also referred to as a full pink moon. In earlier times, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, names were given to each full moon of the year to help track the seasons. Normally, there are 12 full moons in a year because one occurs each month. However, 2021 will have two full moons, the one occurring on the 26th and another on May 26th. May’s full moon will be of particular interest for two reasons. It will be the closest supermoon of the year, sitting at a distance of 222,116.6 miles from Earth, about 100 miles closer than April’s supermoon. It will also coincide with a total lunar eclipse. It will also take on a reddish hue during the eclipse’s maximum which is referred to as a blood moon. There will be a solar eclipse on June 10th.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are in a straight line or very close to that position and the moon either fully or partially penetrates into the shadow of the Earth. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon lines up between the sun and the Earth so that the moon either partially or completely obscures the sun. While a lunar eclipse occurs independent of the position of the observer, a solar eclipse occurs only in particular areas of the Earth.

Although the term supermoon has become a part of astronomical jargon in recent years, it is not an official astronomical term. In fact, it didn’t even exist until astrologer Richard Nolle coined the phrase in 1979. Nolle defined a supermoon as “a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.”

Since a supermoon full moon is closer to Earth than a normal full moon, it does appear larger—about seven per cent larger, technically speaking. However, unless one were somehow able to compare a normal full moon and a supermoon side by side in the sky, it would be nearly impossible to perceive that difference.

Read more: Pink supermoon lights up night sky in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more:Did you see the halo moon last night?

The simplest and easiest way of seeing any full moon is to watch as it is in the process of rising or setting. Looking at the moon when it is close to the horizon makes it appear larger, due to a phenomenon called the moon illusion, which causes our mind to exaggerate the size of objects near the skyline.

All I know for sure is that come May 26th, I will be standing outside looking up at the moon and on June 10, I will be watching the eclipse. Remember to never look at the sun directly. Even during an eclipse the sun rays can cause permanent eye damage.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (USA), “the only safe way to look directly at the sun is through special-purpose solar filters. These special filters are used in eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers. Eclipse glasses are available for purchase at big-box stores, electronics supply outlets and online. Look for glasses that carry this certification insignia: ISO 12312-2.”

Let’s just hope there are clear skies for both events.

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