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The Moon at apogee

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Ashburn
The sky at

The Moon will reach the furthest point along its orbit to the Earth and will appear slightly smaller than at other times.

The Moon's distance from the Earth varies because its orbit is not perfectly circular – it is instead slightly oval-shaped, tracing out a path called an ellipse.

As the Moon traverses this elliptical path around the Earth each month, its distance varies by around 10%, between 363,000 km and 405,000 km. Its angular size also varies by the same factor, and its brightness also changes, though this is hard to detect in practice, given the Moon's phases are changing at the same time.

The exact period of the Moon's cycle between perigee (closest approach), apogee (furthest recess) and back again is 27.555 days – a period of time called an anomalistic month. This is very close to the Moon's orbital period (27.322 days), but slightly longer. For more information on why these periods don't exactly match, see In-The-Sky.org's glossary article for the term month.

As the apogee of 18 February 2017 will occur when the moon is around last quarter phase, it will appear in the morning sky.

On this occasion the Moon will recede to a distance of 404,000 km from the Earth and appear with an angular diameter of 29.54 arcsec. This may be compared to its average size of 31.07 arcmin.

The position of the Moon at the moment of apogee will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 15h59m30s -15°10' Libra 29'32"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The Moon illusion

The Moon's cycle between perigee and apogee is a genuine variation in the Moon's angular size. This should not be confused with the Moon illusion – an optical illusion that makes the Moon appear much larger than it really is when it is close to the horizon. The reason why we experience this optical illusion is still hotly debated.

The sky on 18 February 2017
Sunrise
06:56
Sunset
17:49
Twilight ends
19:18
Twilight begins
05:27

21-day old moon
Waning Crescent

49%

21 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:32 11:36 16:40
Venus 08:12 14:41 21:10
Moon 00:37 05:54 11:11
Mars 08:49 15:12 21:35
Jupiter 21:59 03:42 09:20
Saturn 03:10 07:57 12:43
All times shown in EST.

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

18 Feb 2017, 14:35 EST  –  Moon at Last Quarter
26 Feb 2017, 10:00 EST  –  New Moon
05 Mar 2017, 06:34 EST  –  Moon at First Quarter
12 Mar 2017, 10:55 EDT  –  Full Moon

Image credit

None available.

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EDT

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