May's full moon, also known as the "Flower Moon," dazzled skywatchers yesterday (May 7) as it lit up the spring night sky.
Earlier this week (May 5), the moon reached perigee, or the point in its object where it is closest to Earth, which made it appear even bigger and brighter in the sky. Because perigee was only two days before the full moon, NASA considers it a "supermoon." it refers to the fact that the full moon can appear up 7% bigger and 15% brighter than usual when the moon is slightly closer to Earth.
Although NASA considers the full moon of May a supermoon, not everyone agrees that it deserves that label. Because "supermoon" is not an official astronomical term, the meaning of the word has evolved over time, as astronomers disagree on how closely a full moon has to coincide with perigee to have that title.
The supermoon debate pops up year after year during "supermoon season," in which there are usually three or four back-to-back supermoons. This year skywatchers enjoyed a quadruple-supermoon marathon, starting with the Snow Moon in February and coming to a finale with this week's Flower Moon.
Let's dive into some incredible photos of this fabulous full moon:
In the photo below, taken in Indonesia on May 7, you can see the Flower Moon glowing large and bright in the night sky. But the moon has some company. A dove's silhouette blocks the moon and, because of its proximity to the camera, it looks like a giant, moon-trawling bird.
Full moons happen when the moon is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun. When this happens about once a month, our rocky little satellite reflects the light coming from the sun onto our planet and it looks extra bright and spectacular in the sky.
At and near full phase, the moon is so bright that it can interfere with skywatching, drowning out fainter objects in the night sky — like this year's Eta Aquarid meteor shower — with its overpowering glare.
In another striking photo, taken from Jersey City, New Jersey, you can see the famous Statue of Liberty holding her torch high in front of the Full Flower Moon.
Just like the Full Pink Moon of April isn't literally pink, the Flower Moon doesn't look flowery in any way. This month's full moon got its name from the flowers which bloom in North America around the time that this moon typically appears every year.
People who speak Algonquin, an indigenous American language belonging to the Algonquin people in the northeast, often call the moon something similar, as do the Ojibwe (or Anishinaabe) people, according to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition.
While some know this moon by the flowers that bloom around the same time it emerges, the Cree, one of the largest groups of First Nation people in North America, call the moon the Frog Moon, because frogs become more active around this time.
Related: Full moon names (and more) for 2020
In this supermoon shot, China's Canton tower dazzles with rainbow lights as the Flower Moon shines brightly in the background. The moon has even illuminated some scattering clouds behind the tower.
Have you ever done this with your fingers? In the image above, someone had a bit of fun trying to make the full moon look teeny tiny by playing with perspective.
In the image below, the Flower Moon shines brightly over the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Although the moon looks orange in this image, the moon doesn't actually change color. It only appears to be different colors because of factors like atmosphere that lie between the moon and Earth's surface.
Editor's note: For future full moons, if you snap an amazing full moon or supermoon photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, you can send images and comments to email@example.com.
- How the 'supermoon' looks (infographic)
- How to observe the moon with a telescope
- Supermoon and pink sky: Full moon rises against 'Belt of Venus'