2017 Supermoon | What you need to know about the supermoon in the South West

A supermoon will be visible over the South West on December 4, due to the orbit of the moon around the earth. Photo: Jeremy Hedley.
A supermoon will be visible over the South West on December 4, due to the orbit of the moon around the earth. Photo: Jeremy Hedley.

Mark December 4 in your calendar because you’ll have a chance to see something very special in the sky that night – supermoon.

A ‘supermoon’ is a popular term for the lunar event which coincides with a new full moon and the moon making a closer-than-usual approach to Earth.

Basically, because the moon orbits earth in more of an oval than a circle it means that sometimes it is much closer to Earth than normal – combine that with a full moon and you have yourself a big, beautiful ‘supermoon’.

This won’t be the first supermoon of the year, but it is the only one we’ve been able to observe with the naked eye – this is because each other time the moon has been close, it’s been during a ‘new moon’ or when the moon is basically blacked out.

Got a smart phone? You can hand hold it over a telescope eyepiece and be careful aiming – you might get you a few nice moon shots for Instagram.

Scitech astrophysicist Tim Young said the moon does not orbit the Earth in a perfect circle, therefore at some points in the cycle it is slightly closer to Earth and at other times slightly further away.

Mr Young said when the moon is close it is called perigee, and when it is further away it is called apogee.

“When a full moon coincides with the perigee of the moon’s orbit, it appears about 14 per cent larger and slightly brighter than normal,” he said.

“Skies in the South West region are fairly free from light pollution, so you will be able to view the moon just about anywhere outside.

“Perigee occurs at 23:47 AWST, and the moon will be above the horizon in the North East.”

Mr Young said if you want to use a telescope or binoculars to look at it, he would exercise caution.

“During a full moon, a telescope or binoculars can focus too much light into your eyes and cause pain or potential damage.

As an alternative, you could invest in a neutral density filter to remove some of the light without taking away any of the detail.”

Fun supermoon facts:

  • The Supermoon on November 14, 2016, was the closest since January 26, 1948. 
  • The point on the Moon's orbit closest to Earth is called the perigee and the point farthest away is the apogee.
  • A Micromoon is a full moon or new moon that takes place when the center of the Moon is further than 405,000 kms from the center of Earth.
  • Although the Sun and the Moon’s alignment cause a small increase in tectonic activity, the effects of the Supermoon on Earth are minor and they definitely aren’t linked with mood changes in people.

Remember to share your amazing Supermoon photos with us email ashley.bolt@fairfaxmedia.com.au.