T&T To See Another Supermoon Tonight, February 19th 2019

The January 20th-21st 2019 Supermoon seen from Trinidad (Photo: Instagram)

Stargazers across Trinidad and Tobago will be treated to another spectacular sight of a Supermoon on Tuesday 19th February 2019. This comes just under a month after the last supermoon, which was also a total lunar eclipse.

Though no total lunar eclipse will occur, this Supermoon will be the biggest and brightest full moon for 2019.

You may be surprised to note that the closest the moon got to earth has already passed, at 5:02AM local time in Trinidad and Tobago! This just means the moon reached its closest point to earth on the other side of the planet. The moon will still be uncharacteristically large overnight tonight over Trinidad and Tobago, giving stargazers another treat this year.

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 Full Moon is low, it looks bigger and brighter than when it’s higher up in the sky. 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)

What is a Supermoon?

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 one in January and on February 19th-20th 2019, and new moons (unable to see from Earth). These new moon Supermoons will occur later in 2019, on August 30th and September 28th.

Why is this Supermoon special?

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.

This Supermoon will be the closest the moon will be to Earth for 2019. For context, the distance from Earth to the moon is about 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles) on average.

The February 2019 Supermoon will be 356,761 kilometers (221,681 miles) away from Earth. For context, the January 2019 Supermoon was 357,342 kilometers (222,042 miles) away from Earth.

It reached its closest point to earth at 5:02AM (Local Trinidad and Tobago Time) February 19th 2019 at a distance of 356,760 kilometers (221,681 miles) away from Earth.

January: Super Wolf Moon. February: Super Snow Moon. What does it mean?

These names – wolf, snow etc., 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.

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.

Moderate seas are expected throughout the week, with waves up to 2.0 meters in open waters, occasionally up to 2.5 meters. Smooth conditions are expected in sheltered areas, with waves below 1.0 meters through Friday 22nd Feb. 2019.

King tides are expected to begin on February 17th 2019, and will last through February 21st 2019. (See the 2019 King Tide Calendar here.)

Weather Forecast (Updated)

The central Atlantic high-pressure system will continue to dominate weather conditions across the Eastern Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, relatively dry conditions will persist overnight into Wednesday

However, some low-level cloud patches, resulting from confluence (convergence) around the southern edge of high-pressure system will bring some partly cloudy periods. There is also the low to medium chance of an isolated shower. These cloudy/showery periods will be very brief, giving a mostly unhindered sight to the Supermoon.

Satellite data is showing some thin upper level cirrus clouds moving across the area. Although it may be a nuisance for astronomers using telescopes, it should not hinder to the average stargazer.

Another Supermoon In March

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)

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

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