Your local TV meteorologist will likely be crowing about the “SuperMoon” this weekend. Indeed, the Full Moon on Sunday, 3 December will be the largest of 2017. The “moment” of full Moon will be at 15:47 UT (10:47 AM EST) on Sunday.
Luna will reach perigee of 357,492 km (221,135 miles) some 18 hours later at 9 UT (4 AM EST) on Monday. Get out Saturday, Sunday or Monday evening wherever you are and see whether the Moon appears larger to you.
For many astronomers, myself included, the glare of the moon between first and last quarter makes observing difficult and is a distraction. There are, however, several observing activities you can try during this period.
Firstly, the Moon will occult first magnitude star Aldebaran (constellation Taurus) for observers in northwestern North America, Alaska, north Greenland and central and northern Asia on Sunday at around 13 hours UT. Details can be found on the IOTA website.
Notice how high the Moon is tracking across the sky at this time of year. The ecliptic tilts relative to Earth and during December when the Sun is tracking very low you’ll find Luna highest in the sky..check it for yourself.
You can also watch where the Sun and Moon rise and set relative to east and west along your horizon. Moonrise and set will be about 15 degrees north of east and west while Sol will rise and set almost 20 degrees south of east and west during this period. See the charts.
If you’re a dedicated lunar observer you’ll get more moon for your money with lunar libration in latitude: the Moon’s eastern limb most exposed on December 11th, western limb on the 27th and longitude: north limb on the 2nd and 29th, south limb on the 15th.
Expect large tides in the days following the Full Moon on 3 December. As Dean Martin once sang “let the Moon hit your eye like a big pizza pie!”
BTW, next lunation perigee and full moon will occur within 4 hours on January 1/2, 2018.
Next: The Geminid meteors are coming.