Beth Burger The Columbus Dispatch

Feb 16, 2019 at 6:00 AM

The moon will reach its biggest and brightest point in 2019 on Tuesday.

At 4 a.m. the moon will be in perigee, or at its closest point to the earth, which is known as a supermoon.

The moon will be 221,681 miles away, which is close. Seven hours later, at 10:54 a.m. the moon will be full, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

It’s something you may not notice.

There‘s a 17 percent difference between the moon‘s size at its closest point and farthest point, said Noah Petro, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

That’s hard to see with the naked eye, he said.

“If you were to take pictures and compare them, you would be able to see that difference,” Petro said. “You may not be able to see it and not necessarily notice that difference.”

Unlike an eclipse, you have time to catch a glimpse of a supermoon.

“If it’s cloudy, the next night is ultimately good. The moon won’t be quite as full but it will be close,” he said.

You may remember when the lunar eclipse in January was referred to as a super blood moon.

NASA scientists push back on the name supermoon, said Petro, who argues it should go to the closest full moon of the year.

“It’s been used to refer to multiple full moons that are closer than average, whereas really, we like to use the closest full moon of the year as the supermoon,” he said.

So why do we have supermoons?

“The reason we get this apparent size change in the moon is because when the moon goes around the earth, it doesn’t go around in a perfect circle,” Petro said. “It’s more of an egg shape, oval shape, where sometimes it’s closer in its orbit and other times it‘s not.”

He encourages everyone to view the moon every night and watch it travel through different phases.

“When people look up at the moon, I want them to … know there’s a spacecraft orbiting the moon right now. … We celebrate our 10th anniversary in June,” said Petro, referencing the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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