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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

'Supermoon' coming this Saturday

This weekend will be an absolute delight for both professional and amateur astronomers alike: On Saturday, the United States will be treated to a "supermoon" event — an evening where the full moon appears at its largest and brightest in the night sky. It's the first of six major celestial eventsslated to occur in the month of May.

The moon will officially become full at 11:35 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. This coincides almost perfectly with the moon's perigee — that is, the moment when the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit. This supermoon will be especially pronounced given that this will be the moon's closest approach of the year.

There's no need to get the kids out of bed for this one — the best time to view the moon will be the early evening, just after the moon rises. Catching a partially obstructed view of the moon is said to be best, as that will create an optical illusion that makes the moon seem even bigger.

The supermoon will have an effect on tides, though experts say there's no need for alarm since the increased effect is still relatively weak. That's not to say a supermoon hasn't caused damage in the past: It's believed that a supermoon event may have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.

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