Tonight (April 7), the moon will be at its brightest and largest for the whole year during the "Super Pink Moon."
This extraordinary astronomical event is surely not one to miss. Space.com spoke with NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller, the assistant director of science communications at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, about tonight's highly-anticipated skywatching event to get a better idea of what to expect and how people can best observe this special supermoon.
"It's just kind of a fun astronomical thing," Thaller said about tonight's full moon. Supermoons, or full moons that appear bigger than usual, occur because our moon does not orbit in a perfect circle around Earth. Rather, it circles our planet in an elliptical-shaped orbit. This means that sometimes the moon is closer to Earth and sometimes it is farther away, causing it to appear bigger or smaller from our perspective on Earth.
"Tonight the moon is 17,000 miles [27,000 kilometers] closer than average," Thaller said, adding that not only will the moon look bigger in the sky tonight, it will also be about 30% brighter than the average full moon.
Luckily, because it will be so big, bright and obvious in the sky "it's a very simple and easy thing to observe," Thaller said.
This is good news for people who are self-isolating to "flatten the curve" and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even if you are inside, there is a high likelihood that you'll be able to spot the supermoon through a window.
"All you really need is to be able to look to the eastern horizon at sunset," Thaller said, adding that you have a huge window of time to look at the moon as well. "The wonderful thing about a full moon is that full moons are up all night long, they rise at sunset then they cross over the sky and set at sunrise, so at any point in the night you can go outside and actually see this wonderful big, bright moon."
However, despite how easy it will be for people around the world to check out tonight's supermoon, Thaller added that she has a favorite time to watch a full moon — moonrise. "Sometimes it just knocks my socks off to see a full moon rising in the sky," she said.
"When you can see it against the horizon, it looks gigantic. It looks like it's coming in for a landing," she added. "To me, that's the best part."
So, whether you're inside looking out a window or out in your backyard at sunset waiting for a "giant" supermoon to beam up over the eastern horizon, make sure that tonight you look up!
Editor's note: If you have an amazing supermoon photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, you can send images and comments in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- April's Super Pink Moon is the biggest full moon of 2020. Here's what to expect.
- How the 'supermoon' looks (infographic)
- No, the 'Super Pink Moon' isn't really pink … though we wish it was