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Best Supermoon - September 2014

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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Moonlight over Sydney
September promises to provide one of the best supermoons of the year. If you don't know what a supermoon is, it is simply when the moon is at its fullest and closest to the Earth, providing amazingly bright moonlight.

A supermoon (Attribution: Flickr - Mal Booth)
A supermoon (Attribution: Flickr - Mal Booth)


Some Supermoon facts

While astronomers prefer to use the term perigee full moon, most people have no idea that a perigee is a point in an orbit where the two bodies are at their closest. So the general public uses the term supermoon instead.

During a supermoon the moon will in fact be larger, however when you go to observe it, the moon is unlikely to be visibly bigger. The reason for this as you might have noticed, is that the moon on the horizon normally appears much larger than when it is high in the sky. This optical illusion means that during a supermoon don't expect to see a large moon.

However the supermoon will be much brighter than a normal moon, so much so, that you can easily go night hiking under the supermoon without flashlights. So the best way to experience the supermoon is to get away from city lights.

September 9 moonrise, meridian and moonset times

With the sunset at 5:42 pm and moonrise at 5:59 pm, September's supermoon will be rising when it is almost completely dark. The moon will be at its highest at 12:16 the next morning and set at 6:26 am which is about 25 minutes after the sun rises.

Early morning risers should be able to view the supermoon setting in partial light, which can make for the most interesting photos.

Popular Supermoon activities

Obviously watching the supermoon rise is one of the most popular activities, and with the moon rising shortly after dark, many people will be heading to one of Sydney's great beaches to watch the moon rise over the water. The more isolated the beach the better, so something along the North Shore seems perfect.

Finding the perfect city view location to watch and photograph the moon is more of a challenge. The trick is to know exactly where the moon is going to rise because normally you can't simply expect it to rise just to the East. However on September 9 the moon will rise at 92 degrees East which puts the moon rise nearly due east with it drifting north. This makes me think that Illoura Reserve in Balmain East should provide the perfect location for photographing. Anyone with other ideas should add them into the comments.

Supermoon over Sydney (Attribution: Flickr - Rex Boggs)
Supermoon over Sydney (Attribution: Flickr - Rex Boggs)


My normal passion around supermoons is moonlight hiking or walking. The ideal location is a path that is not covered by overhanging trees as the shadows cast by moonlight are still inky black. I am thinking about various northern beaches locations, especially North Head at Manly.

The supermoon is the perfect time to practice moon photography. As the sun will have already set photographs are most likely to be in full darkness unless you are keen to rise early in the morning to photograph the moonset the next day.

For moonlight photography you will need a tripod and camera where you can set both exposure time and the aperture. A trick that someone reminded me of last month with night photography is to use the timer mode on your camera so that you avoid any camera wobbles as you press the button.
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Why? Brilliantly bright moonlight
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