MONTREAL – Canadians may want to turn their eyes to the night skies on Monday if they want to see the moon pass closer to the Earth than it has in almost 70 years.
According to NASA, the so-called ‘supermoon’ will be the closest full moon to earth since 1948, and it won’t be as close again until 2034.
The moon will be at its closest just before dawn on Monday, but will be almost equally visible Sunday and Monday nights.
The space agency says at that moment, the moon can appear larger and reflects up to 30 per cent more light on Earth than when it’s at its farthest point of orbit.
But it says casual viewers are not likely to notice a difference.
Randy Attwood of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada points out that the term “supermoon” was not coined by astronomers and that “astronomically, it’s not much of an event at all.”
“The moon gets a little bit closer sometimes, and a little bit farther away,” he told the Canadian Press.
“The moon’s orbit is not circular, so every month there is a point where it’s about 350,000 km away and at other times its about 400,000 km away.”
Attwood believes that media is largely responsible for hyping up lunar events with catchy names such as supermoon, blue moon and last year’s super blood moon (a supermoon combined with an eclipse).
He says the only positive is that supermoons can get people out looking at the moon — which still seems to hold some earthlings in its thrall.
William Barker, an English professor who has taught classes on folklore and fairy tales, says the moon has always loomed large over human consciousness.
“For our ancestors, and for people today living in rural places away from light pollution, the moon is still a great presence and very mysterious in the way that it changes,” said Barker, who taught at University of King’s College and Dalhousie University.
In an email, he explained the moon is a constant presence in literature, from Greek and Roman mythology to Grimm’s fairy tales.
Its shifting phases have been tied to love, insane behaviour (aka ‘lunacy’), fertility and — of course — werewolves.
Barker, at least, believes the human quest for explanations and origins may explain why the supermoon still inspires wonder.
“Science has its explanations. But there may be other reasons that the moon is suddenly much bigger,” he wrote.
“Have strange things been happening down here lately that require more light?”