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Super show from 'super moon' set for Saturday night
The full moon will reach its perigree at 8:34 p.m., making it look 14 percent larger than the other full moons in 2012.
According to NASA's calculations, tonight is when the moon will hit your eye like a big pizza pie, to paraphrase Dean Martin. It's "super moon" time.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is letting its enthusiasm show in a new video on the subject. "The timing is almost perfect," it notes. At 8:34 p.m. PDT, May's full moon will reach perigee — the closest point to Earth in its elliptical pattern — and "only one minute later, the moon will line up with the Earth and the sun to become gloriously full."
For a bunch of scientists, that's pretty poetic talk.
The moon will appear 14 percent larger than other full moons of 2012. "The swollen orb rising in the East at sunset will seem super indeed."
This doesn't sound like a super moon — it sounds like a super duper moon.
Anthony Cook, astronomical observer at Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory, is a little more measured in his view of the upcoming phenomenon.
It will be 30 percent brighter, yes, but that's 30 percent brighter than the moon is when it is at "apogee" — the farthest point in its elliptical orbit around the Earth — he said.
"I'm a little skeptical that most people would casually see that this full moon looks huge compared to the one that rises six months from now," he said. "You're talking about a fairly small size difference in something that's already small."
But, not one to spoil the fun, Cook said that careful, observant moon watchers could recognize the super-ness. The best time to do this is when the moon is close to the horizon. The "horizon illusion" makes the moon appear bigger, Cook said, "because you're comparing it to more familiar things."
So tonight, try to catch a glimpse of the super moon when it's most likely to appear maxed out — just as it's rising. This full moon should leave you at least 14 percent more impressed.