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Supermoon Looms Over Earth This Weekend

By Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV Meteorologist
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(Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)

(Photo by NASA/Newsmakers)

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BOSTON (CBS)- The full strawberry moon will be the biggest and brightest of the year in the weekend evening sky. Unfortunately, it will be hard to notice the difference in size or brightness by naked eye. In fact, this full moon will look like every other full moon you’ve ever seen. Yes, despite all the talk about this moon being “super” it will look pretty common. The term “supermoon” is a fairly new term, started in 2011, and has created a renewed interest in observing and learning about the moon.

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The Moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse, not a circle, so the distance between us and the Moon changes all the time. When the Moon is closest to Earth in its orbit we call it Perigee. This is the point at which the moon is nearest to Earth in it’s orbit-about 225,000 miles away. Since it’s closer to us, the moon appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than usual. Yet this effect is reserved for the professional astronomer with a telescope who can tell the difference. It is also important not to confuse this with the famous moon optical illusion, which can make moon can look gigantic over the horizon!

What makes this Supermoon special is the June 23 full Moon at 7:32 AM occurs just 20 minutes after Perigee, so it really is about as close as it can get! The moon will not be this close again until August 2014.

Studies have shown that a full moon of any kind does not affect human behaviors. Full moons do not cause more mental hospital admissions, psychiatric disturbances, homicide or other crime. Yet, many doctors, nurses, police officers, and bar owners would beg to differ with that line of thinking – having seen a perceived uptick in erratic behavior during full moons over the course of their years working. The only real physical effect this moon will create is on the tides, which are slightly stronger when the moon is closer to the Earth, but that happens every month.

Watch for clouds in the weekend evening sky. Viewing will not be ideal as skies will become cloudy tonight, and could very well become cloudy again tomorrow night. The best time to catch a glimpse should be in the early evening between 8:30 and 10 PM if you are lucky. I am just happy people are looking to the sky with interest and wonder. There is so much to learn and explore in our surroundings. Happy Supermoon!

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