On the first night of 2018, the first full moon of the year will appear at around 2:24am GMT for an incredible lunar display that will delight skygazers. At just 356,565 km away from Earth, the satellite will appear 7% bigger than a typical full moon when it peaks between January 1 and 2.
The awe inspiring spectacle is called a supermoon – when a full moon is less than 364,000 km away from Earth. Gianluca Masi, astrophysicist and scientific director of the Virtual Telescope Project, said:
“The next full supermoon will appear a bit more than 7% bigger and a bit brighter than an average full moon, but casual stargazers will not recognise this at their first glance. These differences are very small, only experienced observers can possibly note them, but they add charm to the event, a precious opportunity to admire our natural satellite in the night sky context, an increasingly overlooked and forgotten landscape.”
What is a supermoon?
A supermoon occurs every one to two years when the moon is at its closest point to Earth during a full moon. When this happens, the moon appears much bigger in the sky, giving the illusion that it has dramatically grown in size.
A full moon that happens in January is also called a Wolf Moon. The term Wolf Moon was coined by Native Americans, who believed packs of wolves lurking by their camps were louder during the first few months of the year.
When, how and where can I watch it?
Keen astrologists will be able to watch the supermoon through a powerful telescope from the comfort of their own home. But for those without a telescope, the Virtual Telescope is live streaming the entire event on its website.
Live coverage of the spectacular event will start at 5pm GMT on January 1 and conclude on January 2. A supermoon can be seen with the naked eye, however cloud cover and rain may obscure it from full view.
The best places to catch the supermoon are wide, open spaces where light pollution is low, according to experts. The Met Office is forecasting strong winds, heavy rain and snow on New Year’s Day, therefore online streaming looks to be the best option.