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March 18, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Moon: Bigger and Brighter This Weekend? Here’s Why…

The moon will appear bigger and brighter this weekend so be on the lookout! On Saturday the super “perigee” moon (when the moon is the closest to the sun, roughly in an 18 year cycle) will rise in the east at sunset. It will look especially big at that time due to the “Moon illusion.” According to NASA, this weekend’s super moon will be the largest in about 20 years. The last time the moon was this big and close to Earth was back in 1993.

A super perigee moon is expected on Saturday. Image: NASA

The terms perigee and apogee refer to the distance between the Earth and the moon. Perigee is when the moon is the closest to the earth and it’s in this stage that the moon appears larger. Apogee is just the opposite when the moon is the furthest away from the earth. When the moon is at perigee, it’s about 31,000 miles closer to the earth than when it is at apogee. According to NASA’s website, nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the moon’s orbit.

Although the moon will appear closer and larger this weekend, it will still be approximately 211,600 miles away. It’s a pretty rare event, so make sure you catch it. Otherwise, you may be waiting another 20 years!

Okay, let’s take a look across the Lower 48 to see where will have the best views of the moon and who may be hindered just a bit due to cloud cover.

 Surface map for Saturday, March 19th. Image: ImpactWeather

The eastern half of the country looks fairly quiet and overall should have a nice view of the moon this weekend. A few showers will not be completely out of the question from the Mid-Atlantic States into the Southern Plains along a frontal system. The Great Lakes, Northeast and Southeast should have a great view with high pressure in control and fair conditions expected. It’s a different story along the West Coast as a strong frontal system continues to bring periods of light to moderate rain over northern and central California through the weekend. Although the rain will be lighter than we’ll see today across the area, the clouds look to stick around the next few days as a series of disturbances move onshore.

So it looks like the best weather for viewing the super moon this weekend will be across the eastern half of country. Hopefully the West Coast will get a break in the clouds so they’ll be able to catch a glimpse of this rare event. I know I’m going to be on the lookout…probably with my camera on hand, too.

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