March 21 will be the last supermoon of the year. By coincidence, it will also be the date of the spring equinox, when spring ends and autumn starts, with the length of the day being the same the length of the night. So this makes it a great opportunity to enjoy this supermoon in the still warm autumn evening with the moon rising not long after sunset around Australia.
The term supermoon is not exact as it is not a term from astronomy but was coined by astrologers. Astronomers though don't mind people using the term supermoon but would prefer to use the term perigee full moon.
To understand this, the moon doesn't orbit the earth in a perfect circle but instead orbits in an elliptical orbit with the moon sometimes being further away and sometimes being closer. This closer point is called a perigee, and when the moon is full and in perigee, we can call it a perigee full moon or, to be simple, a supermoon.
In most years there are 3 supermoons across consecutive months, with the dates moving each year, usually a month later each year. This year is great because the supermoons are rising during the warmer months which great for going out to watch it rise.
Are Supermoons Bigger?
Well, the moon isn't bigger, but because it is closer it appears to be objectively bigger in the sky. In fact, it can appear to be around 14% larger. However much of how we perceive the size of the moon is subjective. Basically, an optical illusion makes the moon look larger when it is closer to the horizon than when it is up high in the sky. So, in reality, you can't look at the moon and see it as larger.
However, it will be brighter, in fact, it will be around 30% brighter. So the best way to enjoy the supermoon is to go somewhere away from city lights and enjoy the brightness of the moon.
Supermoon Viewing Times Around Australia
Viewing the supermoon is fairly easy and finding a veiw of the moonrise or moonset is as simple as knowing when and where the moon will rise and set. Because March 21 is also the spring equinox, the moon will rise only 3 degrees north of east and set due west.
Remember, the moon will be nearly full and nearly as bright for a few days around the actual supermoon, so if you miss the full moon due to bad weather you should have the opportunity to enjoy the moonlight the day before or after.
The moon will be bright and close to full for several days if it is obscured by clouds on the supermoon day
In Sydney the moon will rise and 7:32 pm, less than half and hour after sunset, and set the next morning at 7:50 am, nearly an hour after sunrise.
Down in Melbourne, the moon will rise just over 30 minutes after sunset, coming over the horizon at 7:59 pm and sinking below the horizon the next morning at 8:16 am, nearly an hour after the sun rises.
With the sun setting in Brisbane at 6 pm, the moon will rise 23 minutes later and set the next morning at 6:43 am, 50 minutes after sunrise.
In Adelaide moonrise is at 7:54 pm with sunset being at 7;26 pm, and the next morning the sun will rise at 7:20 and the moon will set at 8:13 am.
Unlike the February Supermoon, Perth will have its supermoon on the same day as the rest of Australia with the moon rising at 6:57 pm, half an hour after sunset and setting at 7:18 am nearly an hour after sunrise.
Experiencing the Supermoon
Anything to do with the moon is very easy to observe, essentially look up at the night sky and you will see the moon. However to really experience the supermoon you want to get away from city lights. This isn't really that hard, you can go to a local bushland area, to your local beach or even to a local park.
Of course, moonrise is also a great option with the best views and photographs being with the moon rising over the water. People on the east coast can usually get views from the beach, though if you are in Perth, if you rise early you can catch the setting moon from the shore.
Though not necessary, the more adventurous will want to head far from the city. A night hike without headlamps or torches under the moonlight is a special experience, with some people climbing mountains to enjoy the moonrise from a great vantage point.
Photographing the moon
Moon photography is a great option for anyone with a decent camera. I used to write that unless the sky is still light you can't photograph the moon with a smartphone camera, but smartphones now have such great cameras that it is becoming easier to use your phone for moon photography. However, ideally, you want a DLSR or mirrorless camera with a nice lens and a tripod to capture to the moon in detail.
With your smartphone my main tip will be to download a night photography app for your phone. What most people don't realise is that you don't need to just use the default camera app but you can download some with special features. If you use a night photography app it will be better at adjusting your phone's camera settings to capture the moon. Of course, it helps to have a phone with a good camera.
Those with a DLSR or mirrorless camera will usually need to adjust the settings themselves. Generally speaking an aperture setting of f/8 or f/11 with a 1/125 second exposure will give you good results. Every camera is a little different so play around to get the best settings.
In both cases you will want your camera to be steady when you take the photo, so a tripod is essential. Also when taking the photo it is best to use your camera's remote, or if it doesn't have a remote, you can use the camera's timer to pause for a few seconds after you press the better before taking the picture. The reason for this is to avoid camera shake as you take the photo.
Also, the best photos are where you have the moon rising over some scenery. The March supermoon will be rising with the sky fairly dark, but if you are in the right spot you can get a silhouette of things on the horizon, a cityscape or even its reflection on the water. So planning the right spot can be important, so pay careful attention not only to the time that the moon rises and the location of the moonrise, which, because of the equinox, will be only 3 degrees from east.