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Super Moon tonight over West Berkshire

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Newbury Astronomical Society explain why the Moon will seem bigger

THE beautiful clear skies we've been having over the last few days, should mean we are in for a treat when the pink Super Moon rises over West Berkshire this evening.

If you want to see it at its peak though, you'll have to set your alarms – 3.35am on Wednesday morning is apparently the optimum time to view it.

You will have plenty of other opportunities, however, as the moon will rise in the east at about 6.55pm tonight and set in the west approximately 12 hours later – at 6.55am on Wednesday morning. It will also look full for a couple of days following its peak.

Steve Harris, from Newbury Astronomical Society, sent us this explanation: "We hear a lot about the ‘Super Moon’ these days, mainly from the television news or in the popular newspapers. So what does this mean and does it have any significance for astronomers? The simple answer is no, it is of no scientific interest to astronomers, but it is of general interest.

"There are two factors that produce the effect we call the Super Moon - one is a physical effect and the other is illusionary.

"The first effect is to do with the orbit of the Moon around Earth.

"Like most orbiting bodies the orbit of the Moon is elliptical and not circular. This means the Moon will be closer to Earth at one point that we call ‘perigee’ and furthest away at the point we call ‘apogee’. At apogee the Moon can be up to 406,700km away from Earth, but at perigee it can be as close as only 356,500km."

For a more scientific explanation he added:

"Earth’s axis is tilted 23.4º from the axis of rotation of the Solar System. Looking at this from another angle Earth’s axis is tilted 66.6º from the plane (or equator) of the Solar System. This 23.4º tilt gives us on Earth some odd views of space around us including the position and movements the Sun, Moon and the planets. The first thing we need to do is understand how this tilt works.

"During the winter nights the Ecliptic (the equator of the Solar System) appears tilted 23.4º lower in the sky during in the day so the Sun will appear low at midday and the days will be shorter and colder. During the night the Ecliptic appears high in the winter sky and the Moon will be high at midnight.

"During the summer days the Ecliptic appears tilted upwards 23.4º and very high in the daytime sky. This means the Sun appears high in the sky at midday. Consequently the Ecliptic appears low in the night sky and the Moon appears close to the southern horizon."

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