Andrew Fazekas, astronomer
May 4, 2012 — Skywatchers get a chance to see a supermoon, the biggest and brightest full moon of the entire year on the evening of May 5th. Astronomer Andrew Fazekas has more.
On Saturday night, our celestial neighbour, the Moon, will be just under 357,000 km from our planet – the closest it will get until 2014 - and about 30,000 km less than it's average distance from Earth.
For observers this means that the moon will appear about 16% larger and 30% brighter than other full moon of the year.
Despite the internet hype there is no scientific evidence connecting the lunar event to any effects on Earth - other than offering a beautiful sight in the night sky.
If you get clouded out – try watching Sunday night too – it should still look great just past its full phase.
The best time to catch the sky show is just after local sunset – looking towards the eastern horizon as the Moon rises. The silvery orbit will probably appear unusually big while near the horizon – a visual illusion, making it an even more impressive sight and photo opportunity.
Meanwhile a minor meteor shower, called the Eta-Aquarids is set to peak overnight May 5-6.
As Earth passes through the debris trail left behind by famous Halley's comet, bits and pieces of the icy visitor slams into Earth's atmosphere creating shooting stars.
Ideally meteor rates of up to 20 per hour would be expected however with the bright glare from the moon blocking out all but the brightest meteors,
observers can expect more modest rates of 5 to 10 per hour.
Face in a southeasterly direction towards the radiant of the shower, where its' namesake constellation Aquarius rises in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, May 6.