Science

May supermoon set to delight skygazers

It may look up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter in the sky as the moon reaches its closest point to Earth.

Skygazers in the UK are set to be treated to a “supermoon” on Wednesday evening as the Earth’s natural satellite appears bigger and brighter.

The full moon in April is also known as the “flower moon” as it appears at the time of blossoming flowers.

The celestial event is expected to be visible at dawn on May 26, when the moon is at its closest point to Earth, although full illumination will not occur until later in the day.

According to Patricia Skelton, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the best time to see the supermoon in the UK will be in the early hours of the morning on May 26, or later in the evening on the same day – after sunset.

She told the PA News agency: “A supermoon happens when a full moon occurs at the same time, or close to the time, that the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth – a point called perigee.

“Perigee occurs at 2.51am on May 26, with full moon occurring at 12.14pm on the same day.

“The supermoon will rise in the east around half an hour after sunset and will be visible throughout the night.”

Supermoon graphic
(PA Graphics)

During this time, the Earth’s natural satellite will appear around 14% bigger and 30% brighter.

Ms Skelton said: “For the best views of the supermoon, wait for the moon to climb higher up into the sky.”

The event also coincides with a lunar eclipse which will see the moon turn red, but that will not be visible in the UK, Ms Skelton said.

She told PA: “People viewing the supermoon from the western US, western parts of South America, Australia or south-east Asia will witness the supermoon turn a shade of crimson red as a lunar eclipse will be taking place on the same day.

“This change in colour is not due to a physical change taking place on the moon, but simply because the moon will drift into the shadow of the Earth.

“The Earth’s atmosphere bends light from the sun and bathes the moon in a crimson red light.

“Although UK stargazers won’t be able to see the lunar eclipse, the supermoon is still worth a look.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Science