November saw a staggering supermoon that was the closest it will be to Earth until 2034, but it wasn’t the final supermoon of 2016. On December 14, there will be another.
The moon will appear bigger in the sky when it becomes full on the same day as the perigee – when the orbit of the moon is closest to Earth. The moon appears to change size due to its orbit being elliptical rather than circular.
According to Space.com, the moon will visibly be at its largest on December 14 at 00:05 GMT (19:05 EST) but will also appear to be larger the day before and after its peak.
December’s supermoon will be the third of 2016, following the giant views in November and an earlier occurrence in October. “A supermoon, or perigee full moon can be as much as 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than an apogee full moon,” Nasa says.
The Geminid meteor shower
There’s an additional treat for space-gazing fans this week: the Geminid meteor shower is also due to take place at the same time as the larger-than-normal Moon.
The meteor shower originates from the 3200 Phaethon comet. Its peak activity will be 120 meteors per hour, with each of the comets travelling at 22 miles per second.
Nasa says the shower will be active from December 4 to December 16 with its peak activity happening over December 13 and 14. “The Geminids are typically one of the best and most reliable of the annual meteor showers,” the space agency says.
However, the supermoon is likely to make it harder (if not impossible) to see the meteor shower. “Bright moonlight will reduce the visibility of faint meteors five to ten fold, transforming the usually fantastic Geminids into an astronomical footnote,” Nasa says.
“Sky watchers will be lucky to see a dozen Geminids per hour when the shower peaks. Oh well, at least the moon will be remarkable.”