A Supermoon Is Coming Soon

by Megan Grant

2016 has been a fantastic year for space enthusiasts. We've discovered new bodies, experienced picturesque meteor showers, and by year's end, we'll have had the opportunity to witness a total of six supermoons. And there's more good news: A supermoon is coming on Oct. 16 — right around the corner.

There are two factors in particular that make a supermoon what it is. Here's a brief breakdown: The moon's orbit around the Earth isn't perfectly circular. This means that during its orbit, there's a point where it's closer to our planet than it can ever get. This is called the perigee. The moon is going to hit this point on Oct. 16. Oct. 16 is special also because it's going to be a full moon. Coupling these two occurrences — the perigee and the full moon — gives you a supermoon.

One widely accepted definition of a supermoon is the one Richard Nolle developed when he coined the word over 30 years ago. Nolle said that a supermoon is "a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 percent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit." Thus, the close proximity of the full moon on Oct. 16 means that we'll get to experience a near-perigee full moon.

All this science talk is peachy, but what the heck are we even looking for on Oct. 16? When the nighttime rolls around, you can expect the moon to appear approximately 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than what the farthest full moon typically looks like. Those are very specific numbers, I know. My best advice to you is to enjoy how big and luminous and magical the moon is going to look. (*Insert joke about supermoons being super here.*) Find a spot outside that's extra cozy and dark, get comfortable, and look to the stars. Fingers crossed that it's not overcast that night!

If you happen to miss the supermoon on Oct. 16, fret not — there are two more this year. Nov. 14 and Dec. 14 will also bring their own supermoons; so you'll have two more chances to witness the lunar fun before we ring in 2017.

Images: toddphoto, Melanie/Fotolia