Skywatchers of Arizona are in for a treat on Wednesday and Thursday. The last supermoon of the year is on tap and will light up the night skies in dramatic fashion.
For those of you who aren’t astronomy nerds, supermoons are a regular astronomical phenomenon that occurs several times a year (three have happened so far in 2020). Technically, it's known as a perigee-syzygy of the earth and moon and takes place when la luna makes its closest approach to our planet.
The upshot is that the moon appears to be bigger and brighter than normal, which makes for an awe-inspiring sight. The latest supermoon, which is called the “Flower Supermoon,” happens on the evening of Wednesday, May 6, and in the early hours of Thursday, May 7.
Since the moon is visible to the naked eye from pretty much everywhere, you can easily view the phenomenon from a window or your front or back yard.
If you missed out on the supermoons that took place in February, March, or April, and would like to see the show, here are all the details.
When Does May’s Supermoon Take Place?
It will happen on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. According to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, the full moon will start to rise at 6:41 p.m. on Wednesday. The supermoon will peak several hours later at 3:45 a.m. on Thursday. As we mentioned, the moon will look much brighter and larger than normal both times.
When's the Best Time to Watch?
We recommend checking out the show on Wednesday evening. Since the moon tends to appear larger when it's closer to the horizon (see below as to why), it might be a more dramatic and spectacular show. Then again, everyone’s sleep schedule is all screwy right now, so staying up late isn’t out of the question.
Where Should You Look?
The moon will rise from the east-southeast on Wednesday night and will be in the west-southwest skies at its peak on Thursday morning.
What Will Viewing Conditions Be Like?
The current forecast calls for mostly clear skies on both Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so expect a few clouds that could briefly obstruct the moon.
Do You Need a Telescope or Binoculars?
No, since the moon will be quite prominent and brighter than normal, it will hard to miss. That said, you could use either to get a closer view of some of the moon’s craters or other features.
Why Is It Called the Flower Supermoon?
Any full moon happening in May is known as a “Flower Moon” because of the copious amounts of blossoms that occur this month. It’s also been called the “Corn Planting Moon” or “Milk Moon” in various Farmer’s Almanacs.
What Causes a Supermoon?
The phenomenon occurs several times each year when a full moon is in 90 percent or more of its perigee, or closest approach to Earth. Supermoons previously occurred in February, March, and April. The next one won’t happen until April 2021.
So Why Does the Moon Look Bigger When It's Close to the Horizon?
Our brains are playing a trick on us. It’s called the “moon illusion,” and even scientists don’t exactly know what causes it to happen.
Are There Any Viewing Parties or Events?
No in-person events will be happening locally (for obvious reasons). Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff will livestream the supermoon via its YouTube channel on Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and will identify the Apollo landing sights and other notable lunar landmarks.
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