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Russian astronomer describes supermoon as 'unremarkable regular event'

November 14, 2016, 21:22 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to NASA, today’s Moon passed the Earth at a distance of 356,508 kilometers, or the shortest distance since 1948

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© Dmitry Rogulin/TASS

MOSCOW, November 14. /TASS/. Popular expectations of today’s supermoon are much exaggerated as the Earth’s natural satellite will not look much bigger than during a regular full moon phase, a Russian astronomer told TASS on Monday, adding that it is a regularly occurring celestial phenomenon.

A supermoon is an astronomical event when the full moon of a given month occurs at the same time the moon is at perigee, or the Moon’s closest point to the Earth for a given month.

According to NASA, today’s Moon passed the Earth at a distance of 356,508 kilometers, or the shortest distance since 1948, to appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter as watched from the Earth. So, millions of skywatchers are longing to see this spectacular phenomenon.

"This supermoon is a quite regular and routine event which occurs several times a year. No one will be able to see the difference in the Moon’s size - it will not appear giant," Sergei Popov, a senior research fellow at the State Institute of Astronomy of the Moscow State University, told TASS. He said trying to see the difference between a supermoon and a full moon is like saying "a baby elephant at one Zoo is one centimeter bigger than a baby elephant at another Zoo."

He said that despite the fact that the distance between the Moon and the Earth today is the shortest in the past 68 years, the Moon will approach the Earth inconsiderably. NASA’s data, in his words, are cited in comparison with the Moon’s seeming size and brightness when it is at the maximum distance from the Earth.

The distance between the Earth and the Moon changes significantly within a year - from 410,000 to 356,000 kilometres. Today, the Moon will approach the Earth "by a few percents of the mean distance between them," Popov said.

November 14 supermoon is neither the first nor the last such event in the current year. Last month’s full moon - on October 16, 2016 - was also a supermoon. Another supermoon can be watched on December 14. However, next time a full moon comes closest to the Earth (to a distance of 356,445 kilometers) will be in November 2034.

According to astronomers, supermoons can be watched from the Earth once every 144 days on average. During these events, the moon can appear from the Earth up to 30% brighter and 14% bigger. Supermoons typically cause no extraordinary effects on the Earth but for larger-than-usual tides.

The word ‘supermoon’ came from astrology. It was coined in 1979 by astrologist Richard Nolle.

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