2018 will start with not one but two supermoons. The first will be on January 2, giving most New Year's revellers enough time to recover from their New Year partying to go out and enjoy the supermoon rising just as the sun sets.
Photograph courtesy of Jim the photographer @ Flickr
So what exactly is a supermoon?
The moon doesn't go around the earth in a perfect circle, rather it follows an elliptical orbit. Sometimes when the moon is closest to the Earth, it is also full, appearing larger and brighter than the normal full moon. This is the supermoon.
No one agrees exactly on what a supermoon is, as astronomers prefer to use the term perigee full moon, but I am going to stick with the much cooler term, supermoon.
During a supermoon, the moon is, in fact, larger in the sky. Though if you do look at it, it may not appear larger to your eye. This is because the size is partly an optical illusion. You may have noticed that the moon looks bigger and closer to the horizon and smaller high up in the sky, but if you got out away from the city or suburban lights, you will definitely notice how much brighter the moon is.
Generally speaking, around Australia the supermoon will rise around the time that the sun is setting. This is great news for photographers looking for a photo of the moon rising over a landscape. It will set around about an hour after sunrise the next morning.
If you can't go to watch the supermoon rise on January 2nd, the moon will be bright and full for a few days before and after the full supermoon. Remember the rough difference in time between the time the moon rises is about 1 hour later each day, while sunrise and sunset stays pretty much the same.
In Sydney on January 2, the moon will rise at 8:12 pm, only 3 minutes after sunset and at 66°and set the next morning 6:46 am about an hour after sunrise.
In Melbourne, the moon will rise about 2 minutes after sunset at 8:48 pm at 64°, and the moon will set at 7:02 am with sunrise at 6:03 am.
The supermoon will rise in Brisbane at 6:51 pm at around the time of sunset which is 6:46 pm at 67°and the moon will set the next morning at 5:51 am around an hour after sunrise.
For Adelaide, the moon 8:37 pm, 5 minutes after sunset at 65° and set one hour after sunrise at 7:06 am.
Over in Perth there is a ten-minute difference between sunset and the moonrise at 7:35 pm at 66°, then the moon will then set at 6:18 am an hour after sunrise.
There is a lot to do on the day of the supermoon. The obvious one is to watch the moonrise. Your best 2 options are either to get up high somewhere, which is great in cities with mountains or hills, or head to the coast if you are on the east coast. Over on the west coast, you can get up early to watch the setting moon from the beach.
One of my favourite supermoon activities is hiking under the supermoon. You can often combine hiking up a mountain before moonrise, watching the rising moon and then hiking back down under the moon. Though you can also just head out to somewhere in the bush or countryside without too many trees and hike under the moonlight. Remember, moonlight shadows are very dark and of course if the moon goes behind a cloud you lose most of the light, so you will need to take torches or headlamps with you.
One popular activity during the supermoon is moon photography. With the moon rising while the sky is still light, means you can probably snap a photograph with your phone. Once it gets dark though, you really need to use a camera which lets you adjust settings, though you don't need to use an expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera.
So set your camera up on a tripod. Use your camera's remote or timer to avoid camera shudder when pressing the button. Now, of course, every camera is a little different but you should try a aperture setting or f/8 or f/11 and an exposure of 1/125 seconds. Then play around with the settings a little to get the right photo.
You don't need a fancy camera to photograph a supermoon, but it helps
Remember the best photos have the moon rising behind something interesting or hovering over the city, river or lake, so you need a little careful planning to get yourself in the right position. Check the exact details above, but generally speaking, the supermoon will rise about 25° north of true east.