For anyone who missed the first two “super moons” of 2014, perhaps the third time will be the charm.
Monday evening’s full moon — which is expected to reach its full phase over Santa Barbara County at 6:39 p.m. — will be the last of three super moons this year, with the next opportunity to see one coming on Jan. 20.
At first glance, full moons may seem pretty much the same, but the moon’s elliptical orbit around the Earth means that sometimes the orb is considerably closer to the planet, which makes it appear bigger and brighter.
Scientists call this a perigee moon, and say the phenomenon happens, on average, about every 13 months.
Typically the term “super moon” is applied when the full moon appears at least 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than normal.
Some astronomers think the super moon is mostly illusory, as indicated by this explanation from the NASA Science website:
“The illusion occurs when the moon is near the horizon. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. When the moon illusion amplifies a perigee moon, the swollen orb rising in the east at sunset can seem super indeed.”
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Monday’s super moon, the weather could be a factor. The National Weather Service is calling for partly cloudy skies Monday, but patchy fog and cloudy conditions are forecast for Monday night.