Moonday night: Skywatchers revel in one of the most impressive celestial events of the year


The night skies were graced by the arrival of the “supermoon” this weekend, offering skywatchers around the globe one of the most impressive celestial events of the year.

Astronomers call it a “perigee full moon”, a relatively rare moment when a full Moon coincides with it reaching its closest point to Earth.

At its peak, which occurred at 4am on Sunday in the UK, the Moon came within 222,000 miles of the planet, making it 14 per cent larger and  30 per cent brighter than at its furthest point from the planet.

But the “supermoon” is mostly an optical illusion. For most of the night, the human eye finds it hard to notice much difference, but when it is close to the horizon, the contrast with trees and buildings fools the brain into exaggerating the slight change in size.

“The ‘supermoon’ might look bigger than normal if you see it in the evening when the Moon’s just rising, but the real size difference isn’t big enough to notice,” wrote Shari Balouchi in Sky and Telescope magazine.

Those who missed seeing the Moon in its full glory should still be able to catch the event tonight and perhaps even Tuesday as well. After that, you’ll have to wait until August 2014.