The “Super” Supermoon of November 2016

Today in our light polluted world, we rarely look up at the sky and admire the beauty of its rich darkness.Events like supermoon, blood moon and total lunar and solar eclipses are perfect opportunities to gaze up away from our screens. The social media is all hyped about this event, so why not you?



What is a Supermoon? 

The moon orbits the earth in an elliptical path. We see a full moon when the earth is between the sun and the moon. Likewise, we can’t see the moon (called New Moon) when the moon is in the middle of sun and earth. Transitional phases of the moon (crescent, gibbous, etc) from these two positions happen in a cycle, called as Lunar Cycle. Keeping all the astronomy aside, let’s get straight to the point why this full moon of November 14th is called as the supermoon.

A Supermoon, technically known as a perigee full moon is when the moon comes within 360,000 kilometers of the Earth, with distances measured from the centers of both the heavenly bodies. The Nov 14th full moon will come as close as 356,509 kilometers of our planet. Hence, it qualifies as a supermoon.

Why is this supermoon special?

Nov 14th supermoon has a variety of nicknames like Beavers Moon or Frosty Moon, as named by the Native Americans and European Settlers, who kept track of seasons by naming them. The Beavers Moon is special mainly because of these reasons

  1. It is a supermoon
  2. It is the closest supermoon in last 70 years

The moon in the sky will be 14% larger than the average full moon and 30% brighter. While the difference in size isn’t very noticeable to the amateur eye, the increased intensity of brightness is surely something you can enjoy.

What will happen if the moon comes this close?

Due to the moon’s increased proximity to the earth, we will get to see stronger tidal forces in action. The tides will sweep the shoreline further back during low tide and push it more inwards during the high tide. If weather conditions are severe, these supermoons can also cause storms and rough seas.


Other than such naturally occurring phenomenon, different cultures have myths and taboos linked with such events. They can be good omens, bad omens, signs of some impending doom and source of prophecies. Supermoons, definitely do not account for weird activities of neighbors, crazy people, UFO sightings and werewolf apocalypse.   Read more about lunar legends here.

How many supermoons do we have in the year 2016? When is the next one?

According to this lunar calendar, we are supposed to have six supermoons in the year 2016. Previous supermoons were on March 9, April 7, May 6 and Oct 16. And the last one is on Dec 14. The Dec 14 supermoon is also known as the “Cold Moon” or the “Moon Before the Yule.”

How do I capture this historical moment? With just a smartphone?

We have all tried to click the night sky pictures before and failed. There is no way our smartphones can capture the low light images with decent details. The pictures turn out to be grainy, and the moon looks more like a dot of light in the sky. If you are fortunate enough to afford a telephoto lens or a standard zoom lens (300mm) and a DSLR, you can capture amazing shots with subtle details like these pictures.

low tide


But if you don’t have any of these fancy equipment, you can still capture decent images with just your smartphone. All you have to do is change your ISO setting from “Auto” to 100. Also, use HDR mode, if your camera doesn’t have that by default, you can download an external app which changes the HDR settings dynamically for you. It is advisable to use a tripod or a stand to keep the device very still as the image will be captured during a long exposure.

How do I watch it live?

The best way to experience the supermoon is to look at it yourself at your local regional timings in a wide open area, preferably a rooftop or a terrace. Since its a “super” supermoon, you won’t find it difficult to locate it in the night sky. The view will be the best in rural areas or outskirts of the city where light pollution is the least.

But if by any chance you happen to miss the opportunity to watch it by yourself, you can still watch it online through live webcasts by NASA and other night sky watching communities like this one:


Sofia likes to read novels and learn new languages. She has more caffeine than water intake and is an astrophysicist in the making

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