This December 3, stargazers will be greeted with a special treat: the 2017 supermoon. The celestial event will be visible for anyone who is located somewhere without dense cloud cover, marking the final notable moon appearance of the year. The supermoon gets its name from the fact that the lunar orbit will be very close to Earth when the full moon takes place.
This supermoon will be a full moon, not a new moon, meaning it’ll be big and bright for all to see. The moon will officially be at the closest point to Earth at 1AM PT / 4AM ET on December 4th, though it will look quite large starting the night of December 3. Not only will the supermoon be about 7-percent larger, visually speaking, it’ll also be about 16-percent brighter.
You’re more likely to notice the increase in brightness rather than the apparent increase in size, though, given how slight the change is. The big exception is spotting the moon just after sunset as the moon is beginning to rise in the sky. The moon always appears larger when it is closer to the horizon, an illusion especially profound on a full supermoon.
According to National Geographic, viewers in some parts of the north, including Canada and Russia, will be able to witness the moon briefly obscuring the star Aldebaran, which is located about 65 light-years from Earth; that star is orange and will be visible if you cover the moon with your hand or something similar.
As for seeing the supermoon yourself, all you need is a reasonably clear night and decent vision. This will be a great chance to snap shots of the full moon if you have access to a telephoto lens, and to also check out the lunar surface with a telescope. You also have the option of seeing the moon live online via Europe’s virtual telescope project.