Bigger and brighter 'supermoon' graces the night sky
Published: 6th May 2012 04:49:08
A "supermoon" has graced the skies, appearing bigger and brighter than usual, as it comes closer to the Earth - and is likely to bring higher tides.
The phenomenon, known as a perigee full moon, means the Moon appears up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when it is furthest from the planet.
The optimum effect was seen - cloud permitting - at 04:30 BST (03:30 GMT).
The Royal Astronomical Society's Dr Robert Massey said the Moon's size may be more obvious than its brightness.
"The eye is so good at compensating for changes in brightness that you simply don't notice (that element) so much," he said.
When the Moon appears at its biggest it will be just 356,400km (221,457 miles) away, compared to its usual distance from Earth of 384,000km (238,606 miles).
Dr Massey said: "When the Moon is closest to the Earth and full or new, you get an increase in the tidal pull in the ocean because the gravity of the moon and the sun line up."
He added: "The Moon is always beautiful and a full moon is always dramatic."
Scientists have dismissed the idea the perigee could cause strange behaviour - like lycanthropy - or natural disasters.
The Moon's distance from Earth varies because it follows an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Bigger and brighter 'supermoon' graces the night sky [Online] (Updated 6th May 2012)
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