Full Supermoon

Charlotte Snow captured this lovely photo of the moonrise over Peacham, VT on Nov 13.

Charlotte Snow captured this lovely photo of the moonrise over Peacham, VT on Nov 13.

November 14, 2016| Categories: Planetarium News, StarGazing


Let yourself enjoy the brilliance of a full “Beaver” moon tonight by stepping out after 5:00 PM, when the moon rises in St. Johnsbury. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, November’s full Moon was called the Beaver Moon by both the colonists and the Algonquin tribes because this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. It was also called the Full Frost Moon by Native Americans.

Tonight’s full moon will look bigger and brighter than other full moons — to be precise, it will appear about 7% bigger and about 16% brighter than an average Full Moon. A Supermoon happens when a Full Moon or New Moon coincides with the Moon’s closest approach to Earth; also called perigee.  Tonight’s Supermoon, will be the closest a Full Moon has been to Earth since January 26, 1948. The next time a Full Moon is even closer to Earth will be on November 25, 2034.

But why is the full Beaver Moon “super”?

The reason: The Moon’s orbit is an ellipse, not a perfect circle. Each month the Moon reaches both a nearest (perigee) and farthest (apogee) point, but this time occurs at the same time as the Full Moon. Other very slight variations in the Moon’s orbit, caused by gravitational forces from the Earth and the Sun mean slight differences over decades.

You can see the difference in size, but remember the actual size of the Moon to the unaided eye is about the size of a garden pea at arm’s length. That makes the difference almost undetectable to our eyes, but it is wonderful to view none-the-less.

Tags: Eye on the Night Sky, Faibanks Museum astronomy, Fairbanks Museum, supermoon