On November 14, the world experienced the biggest, brightest supermoon since 1948– and many casual moon-gazers found themselves sadly disappointed.
After days of hype surrounding the approaching lunar event, the public was geared up for a spectacle. The full moon didn’t exactly live up to those high expectations. Only slightly larger than an average full moon, the view was truly stunning nowhere but along the horizon, where the moon illusion always makes it appear larger.
Subtle differences in size and light were visible to dedicated astronomers, but most SLV residents weren’t impressed with the increase in brightness. Most people simply don’t spend enough time looking at the moon to track subtle differences between lunar cycles.
That said, some locals who managed to avoid the hype were more impressed. This Claw reporter was underwhelmed by a moon shrouded by encroaching fog, but SLVHS senior Charlie Kerns testified, “…it was actually quite visually stunning. I saw it really well driving along Highway 9 through Ben Lomond– it was huge and it was gorgeous.”
Regardless of its visual impact, the greatest repercussion of the supermoon has been its amplification of high tides. Rising sea levels have led to danger in coastal communities during even normal high tides.
Heavy flooding occurred across South Florida, and flood warnings went out across the East Coast. In Italy, tides coincided with strong winds, and Venetian streets and plazas went even deeper underwater.
That said, areas further from the coast weren’t impacted. The super tides were not significantly worse than those of the last full moon. Some people have actually theorized that supermoons may lead to an increased incidence of natural disasters, but there’s been no evidence of a link.
The term “supermoon” can be somewhat misleading. The public has taken more of an interest in “perigean full moons” since the term supermoon was coined in 1979 by Richard Nolle.
It’s been defined as a full or new moon at or near perigee, when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the earth, but that orbit isn’t variable enough to make much difference between full moons. The forces of gravity that act on the moon are enough to pull it away from a perfect circle, but not enough to lead to an event that deserves the adjective “super.”
A super moon doesn’t necessarily mean the moon will be visible at all, since they occur at new moons as well.
That loose definition means that multiple supermoons can occur every year, and all that made this one special was a slight decrease in the overall distance between the moon and earth compared to previous events.
The technical term is a perigee-syzygy, syzygy being the tongue-twisting name for the sun, earth, and moon falling in a straight line. This alignment means that supermoons sometimes coincide with lunar eclipses.
SLVHS students who didn’t make time to catch a glimpse of the supermoon this year will have another chance in November of 2034. That supermoon is expected to be closer than this year’s, even closer than the last largest supermoon in 1912.
A good view of the moon was available Sunday and Monday, and there was little discernable difference between the two. The moon is always a beautiful sight– regardless of whether it fits everyone’s definition of “super”– and this not-so-super moon hopefully won’t deter future star-gazers.
By Kahlo Smith