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Sydney Supermoon 2017

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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There is only one supermoon this year, don't miss it
This year, there is only a single supermoon on December 4 -normally there are up to 3 a year. A supermoon is where the moon moves especially close during its orbit around the Earth when it is full, which results in a larger and also brighter moon.

Photo courtesy of Rex Boggs@ Flickr
Photo courtesy of Rex Boggs@ Flickr

What is a supermoon?

It turns out that astronomers don't use the term supermoon. They prefer the term perigee full moon, which doesn't sound so cool, unless of course, you know that a perigee is when an object in orbit is at its closest point in its orbit. In 2017, a perigee will occur only once when the moon is full, so we get only one supermoon.

Photo courtesy of Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel @ Flickr
Photo courtesy of Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel @ Flickr

During the supermoon, the moon will be objectively larger in the sky. However, there is a problem. Have you ever noticed how the moon appears larger near the horizon but smaller when it is directly above you? Well, that happens because of an optical illusion. As a result, even though the supermoon is actually larger, when you look at it, it may not appear to be any bigger than normal.

The thing is though, the moon will actually be brighter than normal. Go out into the countryside, walk in your local park or down your local beach, and you will notice just how much brighter the moon is.

The time of the supermoon

This year, the moon will rise about half an hour after sunset, which occurs in Sydney at 7:54 pm. The moon should just start to peak over the horizon as the last light fades. This actually can be perfect for photography.

Remember though that the moon will be full and bright for a few days around December 4, with the moon rising about 30 minutes later each day. So you can go out and enjoy a bright moon on other days, just make adjustments for earlier or later moonrise times.

The moon will also set at 7 am the next morning, about an hour an half after the sunrise, so early morning risers should be getting up before 5 am to view the supermoon light.

The moon rising in the east as the sun sets in the west
The moon rising in the east as the sun sets in the west

Finding the perfect location

Finding the right place to view the moonrise can always be a little tricky. Photographers often seek a place where the moon is rising behind a cityscape or other interesting horizon. For everyone else, it is just making sure you have a view of the horizon.

In New South Wales, the moon will rise at 67 which is 23 north of true east. It will set the next morning at 292, also a little bit north of true east. So for example, Ballaarat Park at the end of Darling Island Road in Pyrmont should give you a view that includes the Sydney city centre and moon.

However, you might just be better off heading to one of the many beaches, excluding Bondi which annoyingly faces towards the south-east. Though if you are looking for a great lookout over the whole of the Greater Sydney Area, try Bellbird Lookout on Bells Line of Road.

Wollongong is similar and most locals will have their favourite beach or seaside location for watching the moonrise from. I am also assuming that lookouts such as Bald Hill and Mount Kiera will be a popular spot to view the moonrise from. Unfortunately, the Flying High Cafe at Bald Hill closes at 5 pm on December 4.

Newcastle is also a beach town with lots of options, though Nobbys Head would probably be where I would head. You might even get a nice photo with the moon rising behind the lighthouse if you set yourself up in the right location.

Enjoying the supermoon light

For me, the joy of the supermoon is walking around with just the light of the moon. For this, you need to wait until the moon rises further in the sky and a place free from overhanging trees. Beaches are great for this, especially away from city lights.

Otherwise, you are looking for a spot to hike in the bush where there aren't too many trees. This is actually harder to find in New South Wales than you realise because of the fairly dense bushland. But if you can get out onto a farm or cleared paddock it is fantastic. Alternatively, try hike up a nice peak to view the moonrise. You will be able to hike up while it is light and then head down with a torchlight as you come down.

For the early risers, of course, you can catch the moon setting. All you need is a nice westerly view.

Photograph of a plane in front of a supermoon courtesy of Jay Godwin @ wikimedia
Photograph of a plane in front of a supermoon courtesy of Jay Godwin @ wikimedia

Photographing the supermoon

Photographing the moon is pretty easy. If the sky is still light, you can even use the camera on your phone. But once it gets dark, you just need a camera that allows you to adjust both timing and aperture. This can be done on even some advanced compact cameras, though many don't let you do this.

So set your camera up somewhere stable or better yet use a tripod. When you take the photo either use your camera's remote or the timer to avoid camera shudder when you press the
button. Now, of course, every camera is different but try an aperture of f/8 to f/11 and a 1/125 second exposure. Experiment a little with your settings on your camera and see how you go.
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Why? There is only one supermoon in 2017
When: From 30 minutes after sunset to about an hour and half after sunrise the next day
Where: Rising about 20 degrees north of true east
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Thank you for the great tips for taking the best shot of the supermoon and giving the reasons behind it. It's a good astronomy lesson.
by lucia (score: 1|25) 1935 days ago
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