Tips to enjoy Monday's supermoon

Tips to enjoy Monday's supermoon
Astronomers and NASA experts offer stargazers in the region and elsewhere tips to find the best spots to watch and capture Monday's supermoon.
4 min read
14 November, 2016

The brightest moon in nearly 70 years will be lighting up the sky on Monday night in a treat for star watchers around the world.

Stargazers in the Middle East are already enjoying the spectacle taking to mountains, deserts, the coast - and skyscrapers in Dubai's case - to get the best shot of the rare natural phenomenon.

The supermoon is the moment the body is at its closest to the earth along its elliptical orbit.

On Monday evening, the moon will be the closest to the earth in anytime since January 1948.

Viewers can expect to see a moon about 14 percent larger in diameter and about 30 percent brighter than when it's at its furthest distance from the Earth.

The next comparable supermoon will be in 2034, when the distance between the earth and its satellite will be 64km closer to the earth.

Thousands of people have responded to Facebook events flagging the best places to watch the supermoon, with more than 30,000 apparently planning to head down to a Sydney beach to watch the historic event.

For observers in the US, the biggest and brightest moon appeared on Monday morning just before dawn.

However, those who are not early risers have not missed their chance.

"I've been telling people to go out at night on either Sunday or Monday night to see the supermoon," said Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

"The difference in distance from one night to the next will be very subtle, so if it's cloudy on Sunday, go out on Monday. Any time after sunset should be fine," he said.

"Since the moon is full, it'll rise at nearly the same time as sunset, so I'd suggest that you head outside after sunset, or once it’s dark and the moon is a bit higher in the sky. You don' have to stay up all night to see it, unless you really want to!"

Stargazers around the world were generally advised to head to east-facing beaches, city landmarks, and mountains for the best view.

Other tips included heading to dark places and avoiding artificial lights as much as possible.

'Shoot like a pro'

Bill Ingalls, NASA's senior photographer, also offered tips on shooting the rare phenomenon "like a pro".

"Don't make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything," he said.

"Instead, think of how to make the image creative - that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place."

Though attempting a supermoon image using a smartphone camera can be "maddening and frustrating", Ingalls said, it could actually be a "good challenge".

"You're not going to get a giant moon in your shot, but you can do something more panoramic, including some foreground that's interesting. Think about being in an urban area where it's a little bit brighter," he explained.

Think of how to make the image creative - that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.
- Bill Ingalls

To get the right light balance of the moon on newer iPhones and other smartphones, "Tap the screen and hold your finger on the object (in this case, the moon) to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure." 

Ingalls added that the event could make a great family activity, recommending the personalisation of the experience by using people in the photographs.

"I think this would be a lot of fun to do with kids, if nothing else, to just have them witness it and talk about what's taking place," he said.

"There are lots of great photos of people appearing to be holding the moon in their hand and that kind of thing. You can get really creative with it."

Meanwhile, stargazers around the world shared their photos of the event on social media.