This year there will be 3 supermoons in Feb, Mar & Apr
Supermoons are when the moon is both full and at its closest to the Earth in its orbit. In 2020, the supermoons will occur in February, March and April. During the supermoons, not only will the moon be larger but it will also be brighter, meaning a supermoon is the perfect time to enjoy the moonlight.
The Greeks believed that the moon and planets orbited each other in perfect circles, but Isaac Newton realised that they prefer an elliptical path. This means that the moon will be at different distances from the Earth. The term Supermoon refers to when the moon approaches closest to the Earth in its orbit and is also full.
This is no exact definition of the word Supermoon, with astrologers (and writers) using it in different ways. Astronomers prefer the term perigee full moon, with a perigee being when an orbiting object approaches closest to the object it is orbiting around.
Normally each year, there are 3 supermoons, though the date of the supermoons changes each year. This year, the supermoons will be in February, March and April. With the brightest one usually being the last in the series of supermoons.
What to expect from a supermoon
Supermoons are in fact objectively bigger in the sky than normal full moons. But here is the problem: how large the moon appears to your eye is subjective. The moon will appear larger on the horizon than when it is high in the sky. Exactly what creates this optical illusion is not well understood, but it does mean that to the human eye the supermoon may not really look any bigger than normal.
What I love about supermoons is that they are brighter than normal moons. You can easily see this once you get away from urban and suburban lights. While it is best to view the supermoon out in the countryside, you can easily appreciate its brightness in a suburban park or at the beach.
Enjoying the supermoon
To view the supermoon, all you have to do is look at the sky in the direction of the moon. But to really enjoy it you want to be out somewhere that you can visually bath in the moonlight. The simplest is to go for a walk in a local park or head to a local open bushland area. Beaches are also a great place for viewing the moonlight. On the east coast, this is usually as the moon rises and on the west coast, you are waiting for moonset to see the moonlight reflected in the water.
One of the best places to enjoy the supermoon is by the water
Included in the information about the supermoon times is the angle that the moon will rise at. This is import when viewing or photographing the moon so that you can be in the perfect spot to see the moon rise up behind the city, over open water, or in some other perfect spot.
The March Supermoon
In Australia, the March supermoon will appear on the 10th, which is a Tuesday and will rise shortly after sunset, by which time the sky should be close to being fully dark. It will set the next day after Sunrise.
In Brisbane on March 10, the sun will set at 6:10 pm and the moon will rise 40 minutes later at 84 degrees. The next morning the sun will rise at 5:46 am while the moon will go below the horizon at 7 am, at 272 degrees.
The moon will rise in Sydney at 8 pm at 84 degrees, 40 minutes after sunset, and set the next morning at 8:07 am at 272 degrees, over an hour after sunrise.
Melbourne's sunset is at 7:47 pm and moonrise is at 8:38 pm at 84 degrees. The next morning the sun will rise at 7:15 am while the moon will set at 8:32 am at 272 degrees.
Moonrise in Adelaide is at 8:22 pm at 84 degrees, just over 40 minutes after sunset. The next morning the sun will come up at 7:11 am, while the moon will go down at 8:30 am at 272 degrees.
Perth will have the chance to see the moon rise at 7:24 pm at 85 degrees, 44 minutes after sunset. The next morning the moon will set at 7:36 am at 271 degrees, over an hour and quarter after sunrise. This is a little bit disappointing for early risers hoping to see the moonlight over the ocean as the moon goes down.
The April Supermoon
In April, Australia will experience a Supermoon on the 8th, which is a Wednesday. The moon will rise about 20 minutes after sunset, which means the sky should still be a little light as the moon comes up over the horizon. This is often perfect for moon viewing and photography.
Viewing the supermoon rise just after sunset can give you great photos
Brisbane will see the supermoon rise up on April 8 at 6 pm at 95 degrees in the east, while the sun will set at 5:38 pm. Sunrise the next morning will be at 6:02 am with the moon setting 6:51 am at 262 degrees in the west.
In Sydney, the moon will rise at 6:05 pm at 95 degrees, 24 minutes after sunset. The moon will set at 7:04 am at 261 degrees, 51 minutes after sunset.
Further south in Melbourne, the supermoon will pop up over the horizon at 6:19 pm at 95 degrees in the east, with the sun only setting at 6:03 pm. The next morning the sun will rise 6:41 am and the supermoon will set at 7:33 am at 260 degrees to the west.
Adelaide's residents will be able to enjoy the supermoon from 6:26 pm when it rises at 95 degrees in the east, 25 minutes after sunset. In the morning the moon will go down at 7:27 am at 261 degrees with sunrise being at 6:35 am.
Across on the west coast, the people of Perth will have their chance to see supermoon rise at 6:04 pm at 96 degrees, with the sun setting on the west coast at 6:04 pm. In the morning, sunrise will come at 6:33 am, with the moon setting nearly an hour later at 7:30 am at 261 degrees.
Supermoon time is when many people get out their cameras to take a photo of the moon. These days you don't need a fancy camera for moon photography. If you are photographing the moon while the sky is still light, you can easily do it handheld with your mobile phone. Once it gets dark, then you need a tripod and a good camera. With the current state of mobile phone cameras at the moment, you should be able to use some of the top phones to take a reasonable photo.
To get a clear photograph of the moon, you want a telephoto or zoom lens on a camera where you can manually adjust your settings. Putting your camera on a tripod or resting it in a steady place is important. You want something like a 1/125 second exposure and an aperture setting of f/8 or f/11. The timing is the most crucial because the moon is moving and if your exposure is too long it will make the photo blurry. Of course your camera, ISO settings and lens all impact on what the best settings are, so you want to play around with your setting to get the best result.
Yes, you can also use your mobile phone's camera to photograph the moon. The cameras in phones are getting better every year and there is an arms race among phone makers to make the cameras better. The thing is though, the camera software that comes with your phone isn't usually optimised for photographing the night sky. But you can easily download a new camera app, including ones designed for night photography. Though of course, a tripod or stand for your phone also helps.
Yes, you can easily use a mobile phone to photograph that moon while the sky is still light
Don't forget that when you press the camera button, there can a bit of camera shake. You can solve this by using a remote control or using the timer setting. With mobile phones, you can buy remote controls as well, but you can also use voice commands to take photos.
Don't forget that the best photos include some amount of scenery in the foreground. To do this well, you need to be in the right spot for moonrise, so check the times and angles listed in above.