Skies should be clear to check out a truly super moon
The year’s only federally-recognized super moon rises Tuesday, scooting by Earth with a spark 15 percent brighter than an average-size full moon.
April’s full moon, dubbed the pink moon, grass moon or egg moon, closely coincides with its perigee — the nearest it gets to Earth in its monthly orbit — and will come within about 221,851 miles of the planet.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center counts the closest moon of the year as a super moon. A NASA press release says Tuesday’s moon will be the biggest and brightest lunar display of 2020.
But astronomers have different definitions of super moons. Astrophysicist Fred Espenak gives the lofty title to full moons that come within 90 percent of the closest approach to Earth. That means the lunar swells of February, March and May are also considered super, according to Espenak.
And not everyone’s convinced the appearance of the moon as larger will be evident to most people.
“The angular diameter of a super moon appears about 7 percent bigger than that of an average-size full moon, and about 14 percent bigger than the angular diameter of a micro-moon or mini-moon (the year’s most distant and smallest full moon), perhaps not enough to be noticeable to most of us using the eye alone,” wrote Bruce McClure in his column for EarthSky.org.
McClure does believe the average observer will notice a brighter moon.
“The increase in brightness is because the size is larger,” said Noah Petro, a NASA research scientist. “Think of moving a flashlight closer to your eye, or a mirror. The increase in apparent size results in the brighter moon.”
Moonrise in West Palm Beach on Tuesday is at 7:27 p.m. Wednesday’s moonrise is at 8:35 p.m.
The forecast for Tuesday in South Florida is for mostly sunny skies turning to partly cloudy Tuesday night. Wednesday should be also be mostly sunny with a clear night sky to watch the show.
While super moons can trigger higher-than normal tides that lead to coastal flooding, the National Weather Service in Miami is not expecting significant tidal flooding this week in southeast Florida.
It’s the alignment between the sun, Earth and moon that can increase the gravitational pull on the tides. Tides typically run higher in the fall, which is why full moon tides can cause flooding September through December.
“We may see some very minor impacts along the coast,” said meteorologist Robert Garcia. “It is certainly something we will keep an eye on.”
Of course April’s pink moon won’t actually be pink.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, moons were given nicknames to correspond to the seasons. April’s moon comes at time when early spring blooms of the wildflower phlox occur.