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Saturday's 'Supermoon' Shines Above Los Alamos

on May 6, 2012 - 9:19am

Saturday night's perigee full moon or "supermoon" taken at the old Anderson Overlook was an incredible sight to behold as the moon was the closest and largest of this year to the Earth. Photo by Jennifer Bartram

Saturday night featured the closest and largest full moon of this year.

Astronomers call it a perigee full moon.

The word perigee describes the moon’s closest point to Earth for a given month.

But last year, when the closest and largest full moon occurred on March 19, many people used the term "supermoon."

The term has been used again for Saturday's close full moon.

How special is the May 5, 2012 supermoon? There are 4-6 supermoons a year on average, according to U.S. clocks.

They only happen when a new or full moon occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 percent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee).

In short, Earth, moon and sun are all in a line, with the moon in its nearest approach to Earth.

At perigee, the moon lies only 356,955 kilometers (221,802 miles) away.

Later this month, on May 19, the moon will swing out to apogee – its farthest point for the month – at 406,448 kilometers (252,555 miles) distant.

May 2012 presents the moon’s closest encounter with Earth since March 19, 2011, at which time the moon was a scant 380 kilometers closer to Earth.

The moon won’t come as close as Saturday's extra-close moon again until Aug. 10, 2014 – although in 2013, the moon at its closest (June 23, 2013) will lie only 36 kilometers farther away than the closest moon in 2012.

Saturday's full moon fell at precisely 10:35 p.m. Central Daylight Time, according to U.S. clocks. This same full moon falls tonight at 3:35 Universal Time – the standard time at the prime meridian of 0o longitude, or, for example, in Greenwich, England.

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