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Sydney's August 2015 Supermoon

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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By the light of the supermoon
This year has not been good for supermoons but the first comes in August. If you are wondering what a supermoon is, it is when the moon is both at its fullest and closest to earth. The result is a large, beautiful and bright moon.

A supermoon (Attribution: Flickr - Mal Booth)
A supermoon (Attribution: Flickr - Mal Booth)

Some Supermoon facts

Astronomers are not very romantic or poetic - they prefer to use the term perigee full moon. A perigee is a point in an orbit where the orbiting body is at its closest. Given that I am not an astronomer I am going to keep using the more exciting term "supermoon".

During supermoon time the moon is closer and so it will be larger in the sky. However during the supermoon people look up at the moon and can't see any difference. The reason for is that the size of the moon is mostly optical illusion. You may have noticed that the moon will appear larger near the horizon and smaller when directly overhead, so don't expect the moon to actually appear larger.

However a supermoon is much brighter than a normal moon. I love to go night hiking during the supermoon and we can do this without flashlights, so if you really want to experience the supermoon, try to get away from city lights. Though often a local park can be enough.

Supermoon over Sydney (Attribution: Flickr - Rex Boggs)
Supermoon over Sydney (Attribution: Flickr - Rex Boggs)

August 30 moonrise, meridian and moonset times

With the sunset at 5:35 pm and moonrise at 6:13 pm, August's supermoon will be rising when it is completely dark. The moon will be at its highest at 12:38 the next morning and set at 6:57 am, which is about 40 minutes after the sun rises.

Early morning risers should be able to view the supermoon approaching the horizon in partial light, which can make for the most interesting photos.

If August 30 is cloudy or if you don't have time that night, don't worry, the moon will actually be bright and close to full on the days preceding and following the full moon. You have several days on which you can enjoy the supermoon. Time wise, you may be better off enjoying the supermoon on August 29, as it is a Saturday.

Popular Supermoon activities

Moonrise watching is a popular activity during the supermoon. The beaches and seaside in Sydney are a pretty good option. Being the end of August you probably want to find a bar or restaurant overlooking the water. Though it can also be nice to rug up and walk along the seaside, maybe at some isolated North Shore beach.

Many people prefer to watch or photograph the supermoon as it rises behind the city. The trick is to know the exact location that the moon is going to rise. On August 30 it will be 96 degrees, or 6 degrees south of true east. I am thinking that Illoura Reserve in Balmain East would provide the perfect view. For moon set, heading out to Bradley's Head at sunrise should give you a view of the moon behind some of Sydney's most iconic features.

As I have already said, I love to go out hiking at night during a supermoon. The trick is to find a path that is not covered by overhanging trees. When night hiking, even if the moon is bright enough to see, the shadows cast by trees are extremely black. I am actually thinking somewhere like North Head at Manly, as you can walk along the beach, hike in the bushland area and finish it off with a drink or a hot chocolate in a cafe or bar.

For many people, supermoon time means it is time to grab the tripod and fiddle with the settings on their camera to try and take the perfect moon photograph. This supermoon, the sun will have already set by the time the moon rises, so you will definitely need a tripod, and a camera where you can set both exposure time and the aperture. If your camera doesn't have a remote for your camera you can use the timer to avoid camera shake from when you press the button.

At sunrise, photographing the moon will be easier because of the increased light. Though once again a tripod is helpful.
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