Friday, May 4, 2012


It seems Brian Williams, news anchor on NBC, is a budding amateur astronomer.  Nearly every newscast I see he is always talking about something spectacular in the sky - from planetary conjunctions to aurora to the recent Venus/Moon pairing in the western sky.  Now it is the "Supermoon", the hype of which seems to have outstripped normal adjectives!  Between print, broadcast and the Internet, tomorrow's full moon seems on everyone's mind.
However, it is nothing special - yes, the moon is at its closest orbital point (perigee) tomorrow, and it happens to be full moon, but that happens at least once a year.  And while it might appear larger to a careful observer, it is only 8% closer than average.  Tides will be a little larger, but other than the hype, and getting people to notice the sky a bit more closely, no big deal.

I was out doing a pre-eclipse test of my Celestron 5" that I got a few years ago from Elinor Levine.  It is just about the perfect focal length to capture the moon (or eclipsed sun in a couple weeks), with not much room to spare.  At left is a 1/500th second exposure of tonight's moon - not quite full.  Interestingly, since it is closest to us tomorrow, in 2 weeks when it crosses in front of the sun, it will be at it's furthest point, and as a result, it will be too small to fully cover the sun's disk.  So instead of a total solar eclipse, it will be an annular eclipse.  No view of the sun's corona, filters must be used to avoid eye damage, but still Melinda's first solar eclipse and we'll be watching!  Anyway, here is our "Supermoon" - perhaps another picture tomorrow...

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