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Super moon 2012: ‘Gloriously full,’ with 14 percent more lunar excitement

David Duprey | AP
David Duprey | AP
This Saturday, March 19, 2011 photo shows a full moon over Pembroke, N.Y. at its closest point to the Earth since March 1993. The biggest and brightest full moon of the year arrives Saturday night, May 5, 2012 as our celestial neighbor passes closer to Earth than usual. Saturday's event is a "supermoon," the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year.
By Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — According to NASA’s calculations, Saturday night is when the moon will hit your eye like a big pizza pie, to paraphrase Dean Martin. It’s “super moon” time.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is letting its enthusiasm show in a new video on the subject. “The timing is almost perfect,” it notes. At 11:34 p.m. EDT, May’s full moon will reach perigee — the closest point to Earth in its elliptical pattern — and “only one minute later, the moon will line up with the Earth and the sun to become gloriously full.”

For a bunch of scientists, that’s pretty poetic talk.

The moon will appear 14 percent larger than other full moons of 2012. “The swollen orb rising in the East at sunset will seem super indeed.”

This doesn’t sound like a super moon — it sounds like a super duper moon.

Anthony Cook, astronomical observer at Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory, is a little more measured in his view of the upcoming phenomenon.

It will be 30 percent brighter, yes, but that’s 30 percent brighter than the moon is when it is at “apogee” — the farthest point in its elliptical orbit around the Earth — he said.

“I’m a little skeptical that most people would casually see that this full moon looks huge compared to the one that rises six months from now,” he said. “You’re talking about a fairly small size difference in something that’s already small.”

But, not one to spoil the fun, Cook said that careful, observant moon watchers could recognize the super-ness. The best time to do this is when the moon is close to the horizon. The “horizon illusion” makes the moon appear bigger, Cook said, “because you’re comparing it to more familiar things.”

So Saturday night, try to catch a glimpse of the super moon when it’s most likely to appear maxed out — just as it’s rising. This full moon should leave you at least 14 percent more impressed.

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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