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Supermoon Expected This Weekend

June 22, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Andrew Rosenthal

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The weekend`s full moon is expected to be a "supermoon," bigger and brighter than usual. Legend states that with a supermoon brings with it a history of natural disasters and other tragedies, but what is this celestial event?

In fact, there is little to fear about the coming full moon. The term "supermoon" comes from the moon being ever-so-slightly closer to the Earth than at any other time of year, while aligning with the Earth and Sun.

Just as the Earth revolves around the Sun, making the trip in just over 365 days, our Moon revolves around the Earth once every 28 to 29 days. Its path is not a perfect circle, but instead an oval-shaped ellipse, meaning that at one point every month, the Moon is closer to the Earth than any other time. This time of its cycle is known as perigee.

Every 14 months, the Moon`s perigee lines up with its full phase, when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in direct alignment with each other. To astronomers, this alignment is known (boringly) as "perigee-syzygy." To colloquial space observers, it has been given the name "supermoon."

There are some actual events that are associated with the supermoon. The moon appears in the sky to be as much as 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter in the sky. Additionally, the combined effect of the Sun and the Moon`s gravity causes the ocean`s tide to increase, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 percent. At the surface, this leads to waves being a few inches higher during the supermoon.

Legends surrounding supermoons go far beyond the tides, however. No, super-werewolves are not expected to roam the Earth as a result of this weekend`s supermoon. However, some do claim that the event is to blame for doom and gloom. For example, five ships ran aground along the British coast in 2011 after the increase in tides pushed a spit of land underwater. Other events have been claimed to be related to the supermoon, but there is no scientific basis for this. For example, the 2011 Japan earthquake occurred on the day of the supermoon, as did the December 2004 Indonesia earthquake. Other believers have taken to finding events after the fact that point to supermoon-related calamity.

If you get the chance this weekend, take some pictures of the full moon, and then compare it to other photos of the full moon to see if you notice a difference. Be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter.

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Story Image: A "regular" full moon is compared to a "supermoon." (Wikimedia Commons)

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