The Last Visible Supermoon For 2020 – May’s Super Flower Moon

Trinidad and Tobago skies will be lit beginning tonight at 6:47 PM with the third visible and third-largest supermoon of 2020.

This will be the last of three larger than usual full moons, which will occur in three consecutive months – March 9th/10th, April 7th/8th (the largest visible supermoon for 2020), and May 7th, 2020.

The May 2020 Super 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)
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.

What’s the definition of a supermoon through? TimeandDate.com says, “There are no official rules as to how close or far the moon must be to qualify as a supermoon or a micro moon. Different outlets use different definitions. Due to this, a full moon classified as a supermoon by one source may not qualify as a super full moon by another.” But their definition is “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.”

Based on that definition, the only two visible supermoons of 2020 would have been the one that occurred in March and tonight’s supermoon, in April.

Here are the distances (as measured between the centers of the moon and Earth) for the three 2020 full moon supermoons:

Full moon on March 9, 2020: 222,081 miles or 357,404 km

Full moon on April 8, 2020: 221,851 miles or 357,034 km

Full moon on May 7, 2020: 224,429 miles or 361,184 km

In contrast, the smallest and most distant full moon of the year will fall on October 31, 2020, at a distance of 252,380 miles or 406,166 km. Because this October 31st full moon counts as the second of two October 2020 full moons, some will call it a Blue Moon.

Eliot Herman in Tuscon also compared the June full moon with the November 2016 supermoon. He wrote: “A comparison of the closest supermoon since 1948 on November 14, 2016 with farthest mini-moon on June 9, 2017. Both images captured with a Questar telescope and a Nikon D800 camera. The images were combined with Photoshop.”
Eliot Herman in Tuscon also compared the June full moon with the November 2016 supermoon. He wrote: “A comparison of the closest supermoon since 1948 on November 14, 2016 with farthest mini-moon on June 9, 2017. Both images captured with a Questar telescope and a Nikon D800 camera. The images were combined with Photoshop.”

Supermoons can be both full moons (visible), such as the March, April and May supermoons, and new moons (unable to see from Earth). These new moon Supermoons will occur later in 2020, on September 18th, October 16th, and November 14th.

A Super Flower Moon? What does it mean?

These names – wolf, snow, worm, pink, flower, 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.

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.

In Trinidad and Tobago, we should look toward the east beginning at 6:47 PM Thursday night and 7:48 PM Friday night.

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)

Spring Tides Ongoing

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.

Weather Forecast

Presently, we have an increased concentration of Saharan Dust in the atmosphere. This may be a hindrance to local sky gazers with telescopes.

Otherwise, with minimal moisture at low-levels, showers will be limited. However, upper-level clouds streaming over the region may be quite a nuisance for skygazers tonight and Friday night. An isolated shower or two will be possible after midnight.

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