A full moon of rare size and beauty, worth waiting for, will light up the night skies tonight.
The moon, dubbed super ‘perigee moon’ will rise in the east at sunset, looking the biggest in almost 20 years.
The last full moon as big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993, the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC reported.
Full moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the moon’s orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000km closer to Earth than the other (apogee), Malta Astronomical society spokesperson Tony Tanti explained to The Malta Independent.
Perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than the moons that occur on the apogee side of the moon’s orbit.
“Today’s full moon occurs less than one hour away from perigee, a near-perfect coincidence that happens every 18 years or so,” the American observatory noted.
Contrary to some reports and rumours circulating on the Internet, perigee moons do not trigger natural disasters. The super moon of March, 1983, for instance, appeared in the sky without incident and an almost super moon in December, 2008 also proved harmless.
A perigee full moon brings with it extra-high ‘perigean tides,’ but this is nothing to worry about, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US.
In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimetres higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimetres, which is not exactly a great flood.
Most people will barely notice that the moon will look 14% larger than usual. Mr Tanti said the moon will not look much different than normal to the naked eye, but the natural phenomenon is a rare opportunity for astronomy aficionados.
According to the US naval observatory, there are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters, therefore hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full moon can seem much like any other.
The best time to check out the night skies, is when the moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects.