If Saturday night’s full moon appears larger than usual, your eyes are not deceiving you. It actually is bigger, in its annual “super moon” phase.
The moon’s orbit is elliptical and it will be making its closest approach to Earth on Saturday night when it passes within 221,802 miles of the planet. As a result, scientists say the moon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when it’s at its farthest point. (That will occur in about two weeks when the moon is around 252,000 miles away on the opposite side of its orbit.) The average distance between the Earth and its moon is about 230,000 miles.
In Santa Barbara County, the super moon will rise around 7:37 p.m. Saturday and will be at its peak at 8:35 p.m. The National Weather Service is forecasting clear skies Saturday night so the biggest moon of 2012 will be hard to miss. Unusually high and low tides are also expected this weekend and into the new week.
To add to your nighttime viewing pleasure, the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower will be hitting its peak Saturday night and continuing through Monday night. As many as 60 meteors an hour may be visible from the shower, which is created by dust from Halley’s comet on its own 76-year orbit around the sun.
Click here to view the Eta Aquarid meteor shower remotely via NASA’s all-sky cameras.