A second chance to see the supermoon

KUSA - The latest supermoon is our bigger, brighter companion in the sky, its elliptical orbit placing it much closer to Earth than other full moons. The last time a full moon was this close: 1948.

"It just so happens that tonight, it's also very close to a full moon, so the fact that it's full and it's slightly closer, makes it a so-called ‘supermoon,’” said Dr. Ka Chun Yu, Curator of Space Science at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The moon can get just as close to earth in other moon phases, like a half moon or crescent moon. What makes this one different is that it has come in close, while it’s a full moon, appearing 14-percent larger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons. The moon's closest point to earth of this supermoon phase, known as "perigee,” is a distance of a little more than 221,000 miles. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, you can see so much more.

"You can see lava plains, you can see craters and with a telescope, you can even see mountains," Dr. Yu said.

Despite its proximity to Earth - a mere 238,000 miles, give or take a few thousand -- NASA said there's still much we don't know about the moon.

"We're making continuous special observations of the moon from our spacecraft that is orbiting the moon – the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter," said Dr. Noah Petro, a NASA scientist.

That orbiter, known as LRO, has circled the moon for seven years now.

"One of the surprising things that we've learned about the moon from LRO is that the surface of the moon is getting churned, being overturned at a much faster rate due to new impacts we're observing," Dr. Petro said.

That means changes to the moon's surface are occurring, including to those left behind by humans on the moon.

"Those boot prints that the Apollo astronauts left behind, over 45 years ago now, are going to be erased much faster than we expected," Dr. Petro said.

For now, though, scientists say take in a view that won't come again for another 18 years – in 2034.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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