Britain is set to be greeted by the May full moon this week – the final supermoon of 2020.
The full moon in May is also known as the « flower moon », signifying the flowers that bloom during the month.
Other names for it include the hare moon, the corn-planting moon, and the milk moon, according to Royal Observatory Greenwich.
A supermoon is a full moon or new moon that coincides with the point closest to Earth in its elliptic orbit. The term was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. A supermoon is about 6% larger than a typical full moon and around 14% bigger than a micromoon, which is when the moon is at its furthest point from Earth.
Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory, said: « The moon’s orbit around the Earth is not entirely circular, instead a slightly flattened circle or ellipse. As such, it is sometimes closer to and sometimes further away from the Earth.
« While definitions vary, a supermoon typically occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being within the closest 10% of its orbit.”
The peak of the supermoon will take place on the morning of Thursday, 7 May, but Britons will have to wait until the evening to see it. Greg Brown said: « Technically the exact moment of full moon is 11.45am, however the moon will not be visible in the sky in the UK at that time.”
Nasa said on its website: « The next full moon will be on Thursday morning, May 7, 2020, appearing opposite the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 6:45am EDT.” This means Britons watching for the supermoon will have the best visibility at around 10:45pm UK time.
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The moon will appear quite low in the sky and will travel in a west-southwest direction, before setting at around 6:09am on Friday morning. However, the spectacle can also be witnessed online. A free YouTube stream from the Virtual Telescope Project will allow those stuck indoors because of lockdown to see it in the skies above Rome, Italy.
This event marks the third and final supermoon of the year. Greg Brown said: « Because of how the dynamics of orbits work, these usually occur in runs of two or three with longer gaps of several months between each set of supermoons.” The next supermoon will be visible in April 2021.
World news – GB – Where and when can you see the final supermoon of 2020?