All eyes turn skyward toward supermoon on cold winter night

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Skywatchers around the nation bundled up and went outdoors in the cold to enjoy the spectacle of a supermoon, a rare lunar phenomenon, from sunset on Dec. 3 to dawn on Dec. 4.

The largest full moon of the year was bigger than the full moon seen on June 9 by more than 10 percent and brighter by about 30 percent, according to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

In Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, the moon in a shade of orange rose shortly after 5 p.m. on Dec. 3 above the skyscrapers and shone brilliantly over the chilly city below.

The size of the moon seen from the Earth on its elliptical orbit changes according to the distance from the Earth, which ranges between 350,000 to 400,000 kilometers. The shorter the distance, the bigger and brighter the moon looks, and vice versa.

On the night of Dec. 3, the distance was 358,000 km, the closest of all nights for full moons this year.

The next full moon can be seen on Jan. 2, at which time the satellite will be closer to the Earth than anytime in 2018. On that night, the full moon should look the biggest of the year.

On Jan. 31, Earth’s satellite will once again take center stage with a rare show at night, a total eclipse of the moon.

The phenomenon occurs when the Earth’s shadow completely blocks the moon from sunlight and can be observed nationwide.



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