Will A ‘Supermoon’ Be Visible On January 30? New Moon Will Be Third-Closest To Earth

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supermoon
Supermoon of June 23, 2013 at Umaid Bhawan Palace, India

There may be a logical reason some are feeling moonstruck on Thursday.

The year’s second supermoon will show its large face on Jan. 30. A supermoon, also called a black moon, is the name given to a new or full moon when it nears its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. This makes the moon look larger.

The second supermoon of the year comes after the one that occurred on New Year’s Day. In 2014, there will be a total of five supermoons -- two new moons in January followed by full moons on July 12, Aug. 10, and Sept. 9. The supermoon that took place on Jan. 1 is considered the second-closest one to Earth this year. The one on Jan. 30 will be the third-closest, according to EarthSky.

Despite its proximity, the latest supermoon may not be visible to everyone. According to EarthSky, the moon may be hiding in the glare of the sun all day and will set at sunset.

The term “supermoon” was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979, but it only became popular recently. According to Nolle, a supermoon must come within 224,851 miles of Earth as measured from the center of both planets. For astrologers and the everyday observer, a supermoon may not be as exciting as its name implies.

“The 'super' in Supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer,” Dr. James Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center wrote on the space agency’s website, “but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference.”

According to NASA planetary geologist Noah Petro, the tides might be slightly higher because of the supermoon, but the occurrence won’t make a noticeable difference to most observers.  

"There should be no impact on anybody on the Earth," Petro said during a series of televised interviews on NASA TV last year. "There should be nothing unusual except maybe for more people staring up at the moon, which should be a wonderful thing."

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