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The Moon at perigee

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 at03:46 EST(7 days ago)
08:46 UTC

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The Moon will reach the closest point along its orbit to the Earth and will appear slightly larger 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.

The perigee of 4 December 2017 will occur when the Moon is close to full phase, and so it will appear fractionally larger and brighter than usual.

On this occasion the Moon will pass within a distance of 357,000 km of the Earth, and appear with an angular diameter of 33.41 arcsec. This may be compared to its average size of 31.07 arcmin.

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

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
The Moon 05h27m00s +19°05' Taurus 33'24"

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 04 December 2017
Sunrise 07:11
Sunset 16:46
Twilight ends
18:21
Twilight begins
05:36

16-day old moon
Age of Moon
16 days

All times shown in EST.
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:32 13:10 17:47
Venus 06:29 11:23 16:16
Moon 18:26 00:35 07:42
Mars 03:24 08:56 14:28
Jupiter 04:38 09:53 15:08
Saturn 08:21 13:06 17:50

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

03 Dec 2017, 10:48 EST  –  Full Moon
10 Dec 2017, 02:53 EST  –  Moon at Last Quarter
18 Dec 2017, 01:32 EST  –  New Moon
26 Dec 2017, 04:22 EST  –  Moon at First Quarter

Image credit

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Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EST

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