The Final (Visible) Supermoon of 2019

Supermoon taken from Princes Town, South Trinidad

February 2019 Supermoon taken from Princes Town, South Trinidad (Photo Credit: Inshan Ali Hosein) The March 2019 Supermoon is expected to be slightly smaller than the February Supermoon

Trinidad and Tobago skies will be lit tomorrow (Wednesday) night with the final visible supermoon of 2019. This is the third supermoon of 2019 in a row, following January’s Super Blood Moon and February’s ultra-large Supermoon.

At 9:43PM local time, on March 20th, 2019, we’ll have the 3rd supermoon of 2019. On this date, the moon will be 360,772 kilometers (224,173 miles) away from Earth.

January’s super moon was a total lunar eclipse, causing the reddish tinge across the moon, dubbing it a blood moon. February’s supermoon was the closest distance the moon was to Earth for 2019 and the brightest until 2026. Now what makes this supermoon special?

The March 2019 Super Worm Equinox Moon

Supermoons occur annually. It is not a harbinger of natural disasters or the end of the world, but part of the moon’s orbit around Earth.

What makes this moon ‘Super’

Perigee versus Apogee (Supermoon vs Micromoons)

The moon has an elliptical orbit around Earth in the same way that the Earth has an elliptical orbit around the Sun. This results in a point in its orbit where the Moon will be closest to (perigee) and furthest away (apogee) from earth.

During a Supermoon, which is not a scientific term, a perigee syzygy occurs – meaning that the Earth, Sun, and Moon are all in alignment. A Supermoon is designated when the Moon is less than 360,000 Kilometers away from the center of the Earth and appears about 7% brighter than an average full Moon. 

Supermoons can be both full moons (visible), such as the January, February and now March supermoons and new moons (unable to see from Earth). These new moon Supermoons will occur later in 2019, on August 30th and September 28th.

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At 9:43PM local time, on March 20th, 2019, we’ll have the 3rd supermoon of 2019. On this date, the moon will be 360,772 kilometers (224,173 miles) away from Earth.

It wont be as close as the January 2019 and February 2019 supermoons, but will still be a stellar sight for skygazers.

For context, the February 2019 Supermoon was 356,760 kilometers (221,681 miles) away from Earth. The January 2019 Supermoon was slightly further, at 357,342 kilometers (222,042 miles) away.

The definition of a supermoon was arbitrarily defined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. Nolle defined it as a new or full moon that occurs when the natural satellite (the moon) is at or near (within 90 percent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In other words, any full moon or new moon that comes to within 361,740 km or 224,775 miles (or less) of our planet, as measured from the centers of the moon and Earth, is a supermoon. (Earthsky.org)

A ‘Worm’ Moon?

In January, we had the Wolf moon. In February, we had the snow moon. Now, we have the worm moon in March. These names date back to Native Americans living in what is now the northern and eastern United States. Those tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.

You can read more about the naming of the different moons throughout the year at Space.com.

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The Spring Equinox

The spring equinox marks that point in Earth’s annual orbit when the Sun crosses the celestial equator to create longer, warmer days as the northern hemisphere begins to tilt towards the Sun. Equinox means “equal night,” and on Wednesday (and for a few days either side) there will be equal hours of daylight and darkness.

Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of the equinox. BLUESHADE AT WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Consequently, on Wednesday the moon will rise due east while the sun sets in the west, shine all night long for 12 hours, then set in the west while the sun rises in the east on Thursday.

When is the best time to view the Supermoon?

The best time to enjoy a Super Full Moon, or any other Full Moon, is just after moonrise, when the Moon is close to the horizon. Just before moonset is also a good time.

When the moon rises, it does so a delicate orange, which turns to yellow, and then, as it rises higher into the sky, it becomes a bright, white orb that’s impossible to look at without hurting your eyes. It also looks bigger than when it’s high in the sky because the human brain perceives things larger when they are surrounded by other objects, such as trees, buildings, and mountains.

This is called the Moon illusion, and actually makes more of a difference to what it looks like than the real boost you get from it being a bit closer to Earth. (timeanddate.com)

The King Tides Are Occurring

Perigean Spring Tides

With every full moon, we get spring tides. During spring tides, the tidal range is larger than normal. This means there are higher than average high tides and lower than average low tides occur.

With every supermoon however, we can get a phenomenon called King Tides, or Perigean spring tides. During king tides, the tidal range is even higher than usual, with higher high tides and lower low tides than usual. This can be particularly hazardous to coastal communities that suffer from coastal flooding, particularly if it coincides with a hazardous seas event.

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Moderate seas are expected throughout the week, with waves up to 2.0 meters in open waters. Smooth conditions are expected in sheltered areas, with waves below 1.0 meters through Friday 22nd March 2019.

King tides are began on March 19th 2019, and is forecast to last through March 24th 2019. (See the 2019 King Tide Calendar here.) Nuisance flooding is possible in low-lying coastal areas and roads such as Mosquito Creek.

Weather Forecast
(As of 6:45PM Wednesday 20th March 2019)

Presently, we have an increased (but slowly decreasing) concentration of Saharan Dust in the atmosphere. This may be a hindrance for local sky gazers with telescopes.

Forecast for the next 24 Hours

On Wednesday, the surface to mid-level ridge that has been dominating weather conditions for the last several days will remain in place.

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With a mild increase in low-level moisture and weak confluence on the periphery of the high pressure system (ridge), there are some low-level cloud patches traversing the region. These are expected to also be brief, with cloudy periods and the isolated shower across mainly Trinidad initially, by may cover Tobago as the night progresses.

Regardless of these features, you should be able to get a glimpse of the final visible supermoon of 2019 between the brief cloudy spells.

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Related: Connect With TTWC

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