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Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl
Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl


Over the 'supermoon'? Not yet

supermoon The supermoon appears in the sky in Cairo, Egypt | REUTERS

Be it the meteor shower, or the total solar eclipse, or the Venus and Saturn shining together, almost all such celestial phenomena seem to give India the miss more often than not.

It was not much different this weekend when the world watched in awe the rare occurrence of a 'Supermoon' coinciding with the 'Hunter's Moon'. The phenomenon reached its peak around 10am IST, by when the moon had retired for the day in the Indian subcontinent.

What is a Hunter's Moon?

Since the orbit of the moon around the earth is elliptical, sometimes it appears larger than usual because of its proximity to the horizon. On October 16, the moon was, reportedly, about 26,500km closer to earth than it normally is. Hence, it appeared 14 per cent bigger than usual, and is called a 'supermoon'.

The Hunter's Moon is the full moon that appears in October after the autumnal equinox. Every four years, however, it appears only in November. Last weekend the supermoon coincided with the Hunter's Moon.

Why the name?

Usually, the moon rises 50 minutes later each day, but in October, the Hunter’s Moon rises only 30 minutes later on each successive night. So, the time between sunset and moonrise is shorter, and hence, longer periods of light.

Native Americans would use the moonlight to hunt deer and gather meat for the impending winter. So, the full moon of October came to be known as the Hunter's Moon.

What's with the red colour?

When the full moon is near the horizon, we look at it through a thicker layer of atmosphere than we would if we look at the moon when it is high up in the air. The atmosphere scatters the blue light but the red light reaches our eye, and hence the yellow, orange or red hue.

So, what's next?

Rather, when is the next sighting? Not one, but two this year, and that, too, in successive months—on November 14 and December 14. In fact, according to NASA, November's supermoon is “not only the closest full moon of 2016 but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century”. It would be this close—3,56,508km—to the earth again only in 2034. Save the dates!

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