Galleons, for those of you who are interested in astronomical events/follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter/have an astronomy calendar on your wall telling you about these things because, let’s face it, you’re a complete nerd… well, then you’ve probably heard that tonight is the appearance of 2012′s supermoon.
A supermoon sounds awesome, no? Like a shining, pock-marked god, he will rise slowly above the horizon, huge, proud, laughing at our screams as he causes tsunamis while werewolves howl in bloodlust. We tremble at the might of Supermoon in all his magnificent, terrifying glory.
Okay, so the reality is far less ominous/impressive.
Much like planetary orbits, the moon’s orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle (…will I ever be able to use that phrase again without having Magdalena start up in my head?). Roughly once a year, the orbit of the moon places it in its closest position to the Earth. As such, the moon is slightly larger in the night sky.
Now, the moon at perigee (the official term for when the moon is at its closest point to Earth) is not suddenly swallowing up the night sky. While it is a full 14% larger than your average full moon, you aren’t really going to notice a significant difference unless you have a bizarrely well-trained moon eye, or you compare images of the supermoon to an average moon, like this:
And remember, the moon’s perceived size in our night sky changes gradually throughout the course of the year as it moves through its elliptical orbit, so the above difference would be markedly less pronounced between the supermoon and the full moon of the month preceding it.
Basically, you aren’t going to notice a difference between tonight’s full moon and last month’s. Sorry.
Even the tides don’t give you much of a clue. While they are higher than normal, it’s only by a few measly centimeters. There’s not going to be any catastrophic tsunamis occurring as a result of the supermoon.
So tonight, when you look up at the sky, you might think briefly about the fact that this full moon is larger than all the others you see throughout the year. But you aren’t going to see a difference, dear galleons. In fact, there’s really nothing all that special about the moon tonight.
The public may romanticize this “event,” but the firm, logical voice of science has spoken.