Super moon: A second chance for stargazers Sunday night

A A "supermoon" rises behind roadside plants growing in Prattville, Ala. While the moon will appear 14 percent larger than normal, sky watchers won't be able to notice the difference with the naked eye. Still, astronomers say it's worth looking up and appreciating the cosmos. (June 22, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Fans of the "super moon" will have another chance to gaze toward the heavens Sunday night and catch a glimpse of the biggest and brightest full moon of the year.

News12 meteorologist Joe Rao, an avid stargazer, said that the moon officially turned full around 7 a.m. Sunday, meaning moonwatchers Sunday night will have roughly the same view as on Saturday night.

"For anyone looking last night, it was a hairline shy of full," he said. "Now, it's moving away from full. I don't think anyone's going to notice a difference in appearance."

Contrary to calculations widely circulated in the media that the super moon looks 14 percent larger than a normal moon, Rao said that in actuality the orb will look about 12 percent larger or roughly 7 percent bigger than average.

The moon looks larger because it reached the nearest point to Earth on its oval-shaped orbit. That point, the perigee, put it a mere 221,824 miles from Earth, Rao said.

Some viewers may think the super moon looks more dazzling, but it's actually an optical illusion. The moon looms larger on the horizon next to trees and buildings.

As in any super moon event, high tides are forecast because of the moon's proximity, but the effect is expected to be small.

Forget about the myths that swirl every time a super moon appears. There's no link to higher crime or bizarre behavior.

The super moon may get a lot of publicity, but to Rao, an associate and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium, it's a bit of a scene stealer.

"It's like a 1,200-watt spotlight," he said. "Astronomers want to see the sky full of stars. When the full moon is out, it's like light pollution."

The next time the moon will get Rao's full attention: April 14, 2014, when the moon will be in total eclipse.

"To me, that's interesting," he said.

With The Associated Press

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