This weekend's 'Supermoon' not so super

Jun 21, 2013

June 22 marks the day the moon will be closest to earth in 2013.

If you look up at the night sky this weekend you may notice "a rare celestial event," as some are calling it. The full moon on June 22 is no ordinary moon, it’s the closest our lunar neighbor will be to earth in its annual elliptical orbit.

That means Saturday’s moon is a "Supermoon," the largest and brightest full moon of 2013. NASA Ambassador to Utah, Patrick Wiggins says at face value that sounds pretty cool, but it turns out there really isn’t anything that super about the "Supermoon."

"It happens all the time," Wiggins says. "It's not exactly a rare event. Technically, yeah, it's a little bit bigger but not what the normal person is even going to notice.  Don't expect anything super gargantuan." 

"But on the other hand," he adds, "it's getting people to look up at the sky."  

Wiggins says unless you've heard about the bigger, brighter "Supermoon" you'll probably fail to notice the minute change. But don't worry. If you do happen to miss the super lunar event, there's another chance on July 22. In fact, there will be three Supermoons this year. 

Wiggins says if you do find yourself looking up, be sure to check out Venus and Saturn. Venus can be seen for about an hour after sunset then it, too, sets. But Saturn, says Wiggins, is visible much of the night and as night goes on it moves slowly westward in the sky. 

"If you look in the West you'll see an incredibly bright star which isn't a star at all, it's the planet Venus," he says. "It's very easy to see, you don't need a telescope or binoculars, just your eyeballs will do. Then, if you turn you attention to the Southern sky, if you look about halfway up the sky there are two, quite bright stars." 

The yellowish star on the left is Saturn, Wiggins says. 

"So while you're out looking at the 'Supermoon' you can see, well, actually three planets: Venus, Saturn and if you want to see the third one, just look down at the ground," he says. 

If one solar event isn’t enough this weekend, astronomers are giving the public a chance to look at the sun without burning their eyes. Special sun-viewing telescopes will be available June 22 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. at Westchester Park in Salt Lake City.