In 2015, there will three supermoons in the latter part of the year. If you are not sure what a supermoon is, it is when the moon at its fullest and closest to the Earth. The resulting full moon is exceptionally bright, over several days. The first supermoon of the year is on August 30.
Attribution: Flickr - Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel
As the term supermoon is not one used by astronomers, there is no actual definition of what a supermoon is. The most common definition is the perigee full moon, which is when two bodies are the closest while in orbit.
You might be expecting that, when there is a supermoon, the moon will be looming large in the sky. Unfortunately, the way we see the size of the moon is an optical illusion, with the moon looking largest on the horizon, and smallest directly above.
However, the moon will be much brighter than normal; you can enjoy it the most by getting away from city lights. Even going to a park can be enough to realise just how bring the moon is, but one of my favourite activities is actually moonlight hiking under the supermoon, as the light is so bright you can easily see where you are going. This is a highly recommended bucketlist item.
Note: Some people are now also referring to the perigee new moon as a supermoon. As this sort of moon doesn't look that super, I prefer to only refer to the full moon as a supermoon.
August 2015 moonrise, meridian and moonset times
The August supermoon will be on Sunday evening, though you will be able to see a great, nearly full supermoon on Friday and Saturday night as well.
The supermoon will rise August 30, 6:07pm, about half an hour after sunset. It will be at its highest at 12:30am the next morning, and set at 6:48am, 45 minutes after sunrise.
How to enjoy the supermoon
The supermoon should rise shortly after the sky is dark, which is a great opportunity to see the moonrise without it being too late. It is also possible to watch the moonset without having to rise too early, but it will be after the sun has risen.
Attribution: Flickr - Peter
In Brisbane, there are several places to watch the moonrise. The moon will rise at about 95 degrees, or 5 degrees off, due east. Mt Coot-tha gives a great view of the moonrise over the city. Mt Gravatt is also an option, but its best views are west-facing, so you might consider going up Mt Gravatt to view the moonset in the morning.
There are plenty of seaside locations around Brisbane suitable for moonrise-watching, over the sea. The Sandgate area springs to mind, because there are plenty of beach-side locations where you can watch for moonrise, especially at Shorncliffe. In addition, you can head to venues such as the Full Moon Hotel, to enjoy a drink or meal at the same time.
Other options are Wynnum and Manly, which are similar to Sandgate, for ocean views. Of course, there are other locations a little further away from the city, such as Redcliffe, and Woody Point.
As a keen hiker, I like to use the supermoon as an opportunity to go moonlight hiking. This is definitely something to add to your bucket list. Ideally, moonlight hiking is done somewhere with few overhanging trees. While the moonlight can be bright enough for hiking, shadows cast by moonlight are very deep and dark.
Mt Coot-Tha's Powerful Owl Trail is a great little track for moonlight hiking without having to leave the city. Of course, the Summit has both great views, and there is coffee and hot chocolate at the Kuta Cafe.
Some other locations that have been suggested include White Rock Reserve near Ipswich, Bribie Island, and bushland areas at South Port, on the Gold Coast. I think it would be fantastic to walk the main beach at North Stradbroke Island under the supermoon.
Make sure you are fully prepared for night hiking, with warm clothes and a flashlight.
Another popular supermoon activity is moon photography. The August supermoon rises in full darkness, so it is perfect for photographs of the moon rising behind locations, such as the city. To take photographs of the moon, you will need a camera with which you can adjust both timing and aperture. You should also have a tripod to rest your camera. To stop any camera shaking, use a remote or timed setting to take the photos.