Rare 'Supermoon' to Shine Saturday - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Rare 'Supermoon' to Shine Saturday

If anyone has ever wanted to do their gardening late at night, Saturday night is the time to do it.

The moon will be a "supermoon," meaning it will be closer to Earth than it has been for nearly 20 years, and it will be a full moon. With the two combined, Eric Vandernoot, astronomy and physics lab coordinator at Florida Atlantic University, said the moon will appear brighter, and everything it shines on will look brighter as well.

In fact, the moon will be 16 percent bigger than usual.

The moon usually orbits about 239,000 miles from the Earth. Saturday, it will be orbiting about 222,000 miles away, Vandernoot said.

Because the moon will be in a straight line between the earth and sun - called a syzygy - the pulling effect that influences the tides will be much stronger, Vandernoot said.

For that reason, it's a good thing the supermoon did not occur last week, worsening the problem when a deadly tsunami hit Japan.

"It's almost kind of lucky that the tsunami did not actually occur this weekend as opposed to last weekend," he said.

Beach-goers may notice the tide will reach higher on the beach, more sandbars may be exposed, beaches may erode more and some turtle nests might be inundated, he said.

The folk wisdom that more crazy incidents happen during a full moon, he said, might not be true. His thinking is that "strange behavior happens even during the first-quarter moon, but when it is a full moon, people just go out and look for strange behavior."

And since it will be brighter Saturday, "people might be inclined to stay outside later."

Jay Albert, of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches, cautions that the average person may not notice a big difference.

"I think people who are used to looking at the sky might look up and say 'boy that's a really bright moon', but I don't know how much of a difference it's going to be to the average person in the street."

He said those who plan on looking up at the sky Saturday night will be able to see the moon around 7 p.m., but the best time will be when it is right overhead around midnight or 1 a.m.

While the supermoon may not live up to its billing for all, "it will be a big, bright, pretty, full moon and that's the main thing."

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