GREENBELT — The moon was at its biggest and brighest Sunday night, according to NASA?scientists. What’s known colloquially as the supermoon is an annual event where the moon’s orbit is slightly closer to the Earth than normal due to the moon’s non-circular orbit, said NASA scientist Michelle Thaller.According to NASA scientist Shawn Domagal-Goldman, the […]
GREENBELT — The moon was at its biggest and brighest Sunday night, according to NASA?scientists.
What’s known colloquially as the supermoon is an annual event where the moon’s orbit is slightly closer to the Earth than normal due to the moon’s non-circular orbit, said NASA scientist Michelle Thaller.
According to NASA scientist Shawn Domagal-Goldman, the supermoon could be seen all over the world on a clear, dark night.
“If you’re in to photography, it’s an awesome night to get some good pictures,” Domagal-Goldman said.
“It’s a real treat to see the moon in a unique way,” said NASA scientist Noah Petro. “Because it’s close, it’s going to appear about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than your smallest full moon of the year.”
The moon appeared the closest to the Earth at approximately 5:44 p.m. universal time, or 12:44 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to Domagal-Goldman. It was not visible to Prince George’s County until it appeared in the horizon during dusk at around 7:45 p.m.
“A lot of times when you live near a big city, it’s hard to see the stars because of light pollution,” Domagal-Goldman said. “This is the chance to do a bit of urban astronomy.”
If people missed seeing the supermoon, there are still ways to see Earth’s natural satellite.
NASA sent the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) into space five years ago to orbit the moon and take high resolution images of the moon.
According to Petro, the resolution of the photos is high enough to allow viewers to see the tread marks left by lunar rovers and footprints left by the astronauts in the moon landing.
In addition, the images taken by the LRO can be compared to samples taken from the moon 45 years ago, in the first Apollo lunar landing, to figure out the story of the moon and how it coincides with the Earth’s story, according to Domagal-Goldman.
Domagal-Goldman said future moon exploration is not out of the question, but it will take some time to put another person on the moon.
“First of all [moon travel is] hard. I think people in our generation don’t appreciate how hard it was for people in our parents generation to get there,” Domagal-Goldman said. “One of the reasons people are excited about the Lunar Reconnaissance mission is, in addition to doing planetary science, it’s also doing some space archeology … and it’s also finding the best place to send humans for when we do return to the moon.”
He said the United States would have to make a conjoined effort to put another human on the moon.
“Getting back is going to require a significant commitment from us as a nation,” Domagal-Goldman said. “Just because we did it before doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.”
Domagal-Goldman said everyone had the ability to enjoy looking at a bigger, brighter moon on Sunday and can be excited about another supermoon viewing in 2015.
“I spend most of my time thinking about Mars, Europa and planets outside of our solar system,” he said, “but I can always appreciate a good moon viewing.”