This February the supermoon rises shortly after sunset
2019 has 3 supermoon, with the second occurring in the month of February in the middle of the week, rising after the sunset during twilight on the 20th. During the supermoon the moon will be full and at its closest to the Earth, so it will be at its biggest and brightest.
Photograph courtesy of Jim the photographer @ Flickr
What is a Supermoon
The moon doesn't go around the earth in a perfect circle, but as Isaac Newton worked out, astronomical bodies prefer an elliptical orbit. Supermoons are when the moon is both at its closest to the Earth and full.
Because the term supermoon comes from astrologers and has no scientific definition, astronomers prefer the call it a perigee full moon, where a perigee is when an orbiting body is at its closest during its orbit.
There are normally 3 supermoons each year, though in 2018 there was only one at the start of the year. The date of the supermoons change each year. This year the supermoons are in January, February and the last of the year in March.
Supermoons are definitely bigger than other full moons, but the size the moon appears to your eye is actually an optical illusion, with the moon looking bigger near the horizon than high in the sky. This is even though the size doesn't change at all. When you look at a supermoon, it probably won't look any bigger than normal.
However, the moon will be much brighter. Get away from urban and suburban lights and you will definitely notice the difference as the light of the moon floods the area. Even in a park or a darker suburb, you will be able to experience this.
Supermoon rise times around Australia
The Supermoon will rise after sunset but while there is still twilight. This is the perfect time to view or photograph the Supermoon. It will set around about an hour and half after sunrise the next morning.
Remember the moon is close to being full for a few days around the Supermoon, so even if you can't view the moon on February 20, you can still go out and enjoy an extra bright moon for a few days around that day. Though remember the times of the moon's rise and set will be about 40 minutes later each day.
If clouds block your view of the moon on one night, you might be luckier the following night when the moon is still close to being full
In Sydney, moonrise is at 8:23 pm, rising 13 degrees north of true east, about 40 minutes after sunset. It will set at 7:57 am, with the sun rising at 6:35 am.
In Melbourne the moon will also rise 13 degrees north of true east 40 minutes after sunset, but at 8:53 and set at 8:19 am with sunrise at 6:55 am
In Brisbane sunset is at 6:29 pm, while the moon will rise at 7:09 pm and about 12 degrees north of true east, and it will set 6:54 am, about an hour and 20 minutes after sunrise.
In Adelaide the moon will rise at 8:46 pm and sunset will be at 8:05 pm. Like Sydney and Melbourne, the moon will appear over the horizon 13 degree north of true east. The next morning the moon will set at 8:19 am and sunrise will be at 6:55 am.
Just to be confusing, Perth has its supermoon on the 19th. The date of the supermoon depends on you are round the world with Perth, Europe and Americas having their supermoon earlier. On the 19th in Perth the supermoon rises at 7:02 pm, while the sun sets at 7:03 pm. The moon sets the next morning at 6:16 am, 15 minutes after sunrise.
How to Enjoy the Supermoon
Viewing the supermoon can be as easy and looking up at the sky. But unless you live in the countryside or there is a power outage in your neighbourhood, you won't get the full effect unless you do your best to escape city lights. Though in fact, it is easy enough for most people to find a wide-open park where they can enjoy the light of the moon.
Ideally, though you want to get out and about. One popular option is by the water, and if you live on the east coast of Australia, that means heading to the beach, to watch the moon rise over the water. Alternatively, you can do a little night hiking by moonlight out in the bush, but remember, you need to find a place with few overhanging trees or you will just be in the dark shadows. Finally, you might want to head up high to enjoy the moonrise. I know a number of hikers who love to climb to the top of mountains for the supermoon rise.
Photographing the moon at the beach while the sky is still light
Don't forget that you can also get up early to watch the moonset in the morning. A good option for early risers and people on the west coast.
Photographing the moon is a popular activity for anyone with a good camera and a tripod. You can actually get nice handheld photos of the moon if it is rising while the sky is still light. After dark, you need a camera that you can adjust the settings on, a zoom lens and a tripod. An expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera would be ideal, but many cheaper cameras will also work.
You don't need a fancy camera to photograph the moon, but it helps
All you need to do is set up your camera on the tripod and point it at the moon. Generally, you want to try an aperture setting of f/8 or f/11 and a 1/125 second exposure. Each camera is a little different and you should play around with the settings a little to get the perfect photo.
When you take the photo you don't want to press the camera button, because this will cause the camera to shake, resulting in a fuzzy photo. If your camera has a remote, then use that, or you can use the camera's timer so that it pauses 5 or 10 seconds after pressing the button to take the photo.
Photographing and viewing the supermoon is popular
Often the best photos are going to be ones where you have some scenery. The sky should still have some light as the moon rises, so it will be a great opportunity to get some beautiful photos of the moon over cities. Remember to pay careful attention to the angle that the moon is rising so that you can choose the best spot.