It’s time to dust off your telescopes, New York.
On Sunday, a “supermoon” will shine above the city (and the world), creating quite the awe-inspiring spectacle. The phrase simply refers to a full moon that is at perigee, or at its closest approach to Earth in its orbit. The occurrence will make our celestial neighbor appear roughly 13 percent larger in diameter than when it's at its farthest point from Earth. It won’t look quite as big as the massive full moon of November 2016, the largest in nearly 70 years, but you can still expect it to be magnificent in its own right.
The full moon will reach its peak on Sunday morning, but NASA says that it will appear full from Friday night through Monday evening. For the casual viewer, the moon will appear indistinguishable to any other full moon of the year. It’s also worth noting that the term “supermoon” isn’t exactly a scientific phrase—it’s more of a way to get the public stoked about astronomy (and to click on articles like this one).
Dr. Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist in the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Astrophysics says that the best way to check out the moon is to find a location with a clear view of the east. The moon will appear huge at that point, due to an optical illusion that happens when you see a bright object against the landscape.
“The supermoon is an opportunity to dust off your astronomy skills, head outside and connect with the cosmos,” Faherty says. “This is a chance to appreciate our celestial partner in the sky.”
Each full moon of the year comes with a special name, and this weekend’s is the Frost Moon, so that’s fun. If you really want to tickle your space bone this weekend, look to the south-southwest sky on Sunday evening. Both Mercury and Saturn will be setting in that part of the horizon, providing a humbling reminder that the great city of New York is a meaningless chunk of stardust careening through the endless void of space.