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Melbourne Supermoon

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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Under the magical light of the supermoon
The last, and possibly best supermoon of the year will bless our skies on September 9. Not sure what a supermoon is? It is when the moon is closest, and hence brightest to the Earth while being full. A supermoon is a great time to watch the moonrise and enjoy the amazingly bright moonlight.

The last Supermoon in Melbourne (Attribution: Flickr - Michael Seeley)
The last Supermoon in Melbourne (Attribution: Flickr - Michael Seeley)

Supermoon facts

Astronomers don't use the term supermoon, and prefer to refer to it as a perigee full moon. As most people don't know that a perigee is the point in an orbit where a body is at its closest, most people use the term supermoon. Which you have to admit is a much cooler name.

During the supermoon many people go out expecting to see a huge moon in the sky. The problem is that the size the moon appears to us is an optical illusion. Most people will have noticed that the moon looks bigger on the horizon than high in the sky.

With the supermoon what you will notice the most is the brightness of the moonlight. This is especially true if you can go far from city lights.

Moonrise, meridian and moonset times on September 9

The moon rises at 6:25 pm on September 9, 20 minutes after sunset. This supermoon should see it rising in full dark. The moon will be at its highest at 12:42 am the next morning and set at 6:52 am, about 30 minutes after sunrise.

You usually have a few days of bright moons around the time of the full supermoon, so if it is cloudy, you can enjoy the supermoon on another night.

How to enjoy the supermoon

The most common option is to watch the moon rise, preferably over water. This supermoon will rise at 92 degrees, almost due east and drift to the north as it rises. The best options are usually to watch it rise over water or from behind the city.

Unless you are keen to head out to somewhere like Queenscliff then you probably just want to go to Point Gellibrand. I always welcome suggestions for spots to watch the moonrise, so post your ideas in the comments section.

One of my favourite supermoon activities is moonlight hiking, or if you can't manage a full hike, you can just find a quiet park to walk in. What you are looking for is a place with few covering trees because even though the moon is more than bright enough to hike under without flashlights, the shadows cast by the moon are very dark. Remember to prepare properly for a night hike.

Supermoon over the MCG (Attribution: Flickr - Chris Phutully)
Supermoon over the MCG (Attribution: Flickr - Chris Phutully)

Supermoons are popular with photographers. The most popular shot is the moon rising over the city. Remember you will need a camera where you can adjust both the aperture and timing, as well as a tripod. One trick when photographing the moon is to use the timer setting on your camera. That way the camera won't shake as you press the button.
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