What is a Supermoon and When Can I See One?

What is a Supermoon and When Can I See One?
Image: Getty Images

Astronomy-minded Aussies will soon be able to see a supermoon in the sky, but when and how will you be able to watch it?

Fret not, moon gazers, we’ve got your answers written out below, including some explainers on what a supermoon is and when you’ll be able to see the next one in the night sky.

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon is easily explained – it’s a full moon that comes as close to the Earth as possible. While it doesn’t always appear physically bigger than usual, it does appear brighter than usual.

As Earth Sky notes, there are a few words that you’ll need to understand if you’re a prospective supermoon superfan:

  • A new moon forms when it goes between the sun and the Earth (in its monthly orbit).
  • A full moon forms when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.
  • A perigree forms when the moon is as close as possible to the Earth in its monthly orbit. For a moon to be a supermoon, it needs to be perigee.

According to NASA Science, a moon is in perigee if it comes within 363,300 km of the earth surface. The distance is disputable, with Farmer’s Almanac considering the maximum distance to be 360,000 km. It’s not like it’s a massive distance, but it matters to some observers. Also fun fact, supermoons have the ability to cause higher-than-usual tides.

How often do supermoons occur?

A supermoon forms several times a year, when the moon is at its observable brightest, which we can predict by knowing the speed and geometry of the Earth, the sun, and of course the moon.

When we covered the strawberry supermoon back in June 2021, we noted that there are a few fun names that we give to supermoons. Here’s what they are, by the month:

  • January: Wolf Moon
  • February: Snow Moon
  • March: Worm Moon
  • April: Pink Moon
  • May: Flower Moon
  • June: Strawberry Moon
  • July: Buck Moon
  • September: Harvest Moon
  • October: Hunter’s Moon
  • November: Beaver Moon
  • December: Cold Moon

When will the next Australian supermoon occur?

According to Time and Date, the next observable supermoon in Australia will be on June 14, visible from all over the country.

Other predicted lunar events include:

  • Black moon: May 30
  • Micro moon: June 29
  • Super moon: July 14
  • Lunar Eclipse: November 8 to November 9
  • Super moon: December 23

What’s the best way to observe a supermoon?

If you want the best view possible, you’ll want to get up high and avoid light pollution. This means getting on a high point, like on a tower or on the top of a mountain, far away from bright lights caused by streets and buildings (this’ll be hard to do in a major city). You might also want a telescope, if you want a more detailed, bigger moon to observe.

Additionally, of course, it’s hard to observe a supermoon if there are a lot of clouds. Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do about this except wish for clear skies.

How do I take a good photo of a supermoon?

During the February 2019 supermoon, we wrote some neat steps for prospective photographers wanting to snap a picture of the supermoon. Here’s what you should try:

  • Using a tripod will dramatically improve the quality and sharpness of your moon photographs
  • If you can’t achieve autofocus then use your live view screen, zoom in on the moon using the live view screen and adjust your focus
  • Using focal lengths of 200mm or more can start to show some nice detail of the moon
  • A quick exposure of around 1/800th or faster helps with countering the earths rotation and leaves you with a nice clear image as well as using a shutter release cable or the timer function on your camera
  • Apertures of around F/8 will yield some nice sharp results
  • Depending on the phase of the moon ISO may need to be increased
  • If you’re using long focal length lenses just keep in mind that atmospheric turbulence can reduce the sharpness of your moon images. Wait for a moment of clear seeing where the atmosphere settles down briefly or take a few photographs throughout the night and access how the look for the sharpest image