On Wednesday nights Australians will be able to see the biggest and brightest month of the year.
It’s been called a “pink supermoon”, but Monash University astronomer Michael Brown says it won’t be pink, and in fact, it might not be super but, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see.
“Supermoon is a full moon where the moon is only slightly closer to Earth than usual, so it looks a little bigger and a little brighter,” Brown said.
That’s about 10% closer and 20% greater in area and brightness.
“That’s a pretty subtle difference, and it won’t be immediately visible to the human eye.”
Supermoon occurs when the moon reaches its closest point in orbit in 27 days and happens to be full, which happens about once a year.
While the moon will be around 40,000 km closer to Earth, Brown said photographs of the big moon in the sky were merely optical illusions.
“To be honest, some of the supermoon photography out there are people who play tricks with a zoom lens … When we look at the moon next to a tree or a mountain or an airplane in front of it, we certainly get the perception that it’s very big.”
Although called “pink”, Brown says this is just a name, like “blue moon”. This only means the full moon of April and may still be silver or yellow in the sky.
“The only time we get an unusual color for the moon is if, say, we see it through a smoky or dusty sky like we experienced last summer … or in a lunar eclipse.”
He said it was still appropriate to venture into your backyard or stare out the window.
“The moon is an astronomical object that is really useful to look at … Even with the naked eye, you can see dark patches on it which are basal plains,” Brown said.
“If you have a decent set of binoculars or a cheap telescope, you can see the crater and several mountains … This is a good opportunity to just see and appreciate the moon for what it is.”
Brown said star observations could be a useful family quarantine activity.
“Some bright stars and planets are very easy to see with the eyes without help.
“From my lounge room and with a $ 100 telescope I have seen Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s clouds, so that is definitely something one can do when stuck at home.”
• Share photos of your super moon – impressive or unimpressive – with the Guardian Australia picture editor [email protected]