May 3rd, 2012
12:26 PM ET

Moon over Cinco de Mayo

Many of you are likely contemplating weekend plans since Saturday is Cinco de Mayo, but there may be another event to pencil into your calendar: viewing the "super moon." At 11:35 p.m. ET Saturday, the official full moon will occur at the same time its orbit brings the familiar white globe closest to Earth.

The moon will appear very large and bright in the sky, about 16% brighter than usual. The best location to view the moon at its largest is when it is along the horizon after rising and just before setting. Viewing the moon behind buildings and trees creates an optical illusion so it appears even larger, making it a perfect time to try and grab some beautiful pictures.

So why is this full moon "super"? As the moon orbits the Earth, there are specific times when it is closest to and farthest away from our planet. Apogee occurs when the moon is farthest away from Earth, and perigee occurs when it is closest. On Saturday, the moon will be at its perigee and thus very close to Earth - about 221,000 miles away.

The perigee on Saturday night will also be the closest one to Earth all year, about 3% closer than any other approach in 2012. This is due to the fact that the orbits in our solar system are elliptical instead of circular. There is a bit of wobble in these orbits as well, explaining why we see some perigees closer and some apogees farther away than others.

Those along the coasts wondering, β€œDo I need to worry about huge high tides?” will notice more exaggerated high and low tides but nothing extreme. In most places, the perigean tides raise tidal levels about an inch. In some locations, the tide could rise possibly up to 6 inches, depending on local geography.

This full moon will be big, bright, beautiful and certainly worth a look. The timing to see it will be perfect when many people already are out and about on Saturday night.

Post by:
Filed under: On Earth
soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. penny

    My photos turned out great; I am very proud of them.

    May 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  2. nibiro

    q41)The great star will burn for seven days,
    The cloud will cause two suns to appear:
    The big mastiff will howl all night
    When the great pontiff will change country.

    May 6, 2012 at 1:09 am |
  3. Stick it in you

    As a reformed werewolf, I do not appreciate this time of month.

    May 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Denise

      My Goodness!! LOL!!! πŸ˜€

      May 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  4. La Lune

    The time given in this article is not correct for viewing purposes. You want to watch this moon especially at MOON RISE. Moon rise calculators are easily available online. For the Midwest, the time is 7:50 PM. Find your own moonrise time and enjoy!!

    May 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Jason S

    The moon will have a big red cape and a yellow M on it.

    May 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  6. shootingstar/*

    this will be a GREAT EVENT for human history and all the SCIENTIST around the world

    May 5, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • WHatTheF?

      a great event in human history??! huh? Try not to get too overdramatic.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  7. Faxon

    Cinco de Mayo. A totally fake holiday. At least the moon does not have advertising on it yet.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Chris

      how is it a fake holiday? It represents when the mexicans drove the french out during the colonial era even though they were hugely outnumbered.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
      • Triclopz

        OK, Is beating the French a cause for a "special day"?? Who hasnt beaten the French..................

        May 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
      • Ms.Lopez

        But it isn't their "Fourth of July" as many people think, Chris. Their true independence came in September. So you are right, the holiday isn't "fake" per se, just misunderstood!! It is good for beer sales. Ms. Lopez

        May 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  8. karen mcgrath

    We do not know what will happen when the planets all line up.nostradomis predicted a great storm in the sky....i think it will interfere with all our computers cell phones and much more because we rely on satellites in space and the planets will cause everything to go wacky.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • twofrost

      Now who can argue with that??

      May 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • darrel

      Well sure... You bet!!

      May 5, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • J.C.

      For your own education..please read up on the science with so called "planetary alignments" I am not insinuating that you are stupid, but you seem to be concerned about the causality of an upcoming event that will have no effect on our planet.

      May 5, 2012 at 2:47 am |
      • Zain


        May 5, 2012 at 10:01 am |
      • WHatTheF?

        Sure it will...just because you don't understand that, doesn't mean it won't happen.

        May 7, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Zain

      You can't really believe in that! it is inherently impossible (mostly, due to physics). ridiculous prophecy; I guess the mayans are right, also! the planetary alignment will cause gravity to destroy the planet, like a cheap watch broken in space! sarcasm is the only way I can express myself, in these cases. πŸ™‚

      May 5, 2012 at 10:09 am |
      • Zain

        J.C, put it much more cordially; thanks!

        May 5, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  9. Dreamer96

    Watch out for the moon people...It's their best chance to invade earth...riding their moon cycles, being followed by their moon dogs, and they will be eating their moon pies, and doing their moon dance, and of course mooning the earthly human passers-by..

    May 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • John


      May 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  10. talamore1948

    All lovers of Dogs, including those who will be barking at the Moon tonight, go to Dogs For Obama on Facebook at!/pages/Dogs-For-Obama/416441408375751

    May 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Boomer in Mo

    I'll be out looking! I would suggest everyone forget the nastiness some posted here and just enjoy.

    May 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Bill

    Eto fignya!

    May 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  13. Perry Rankin

    Just enjoy the Full Flower moon.

    May 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • jana

      Enjoy the glistening rays. Jupiter in Taurus is aligning with Venus in Gemini and Mars in Virgo, as seen in the night sky. Then even more to come, though we don't get to see the physical Venus and the Sun kissing this June but we will feel it; Summer of Love!

      May 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  14. Perry Rankin

    Just eojoy tgm

    May 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  15. TheBuckStopsHere


    May 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  16. janerose

    Thank you mother nature. You truly have us living in a jewerly box of live gems. Happy Birthday Rob.

    May 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  17. DBW

    I'll show you a big moon.

    May 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Penny

      The very idea!

      May 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Dahi

    Surely the gravitational pull affects the mind.all you haters attack rob now,what wil u do on saturday?

    May 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  19. Jason S

    Oh no the moon is going to crash into the earth!

    May 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  20. Houstonian

    @Luke and Han May the 4th be with you! Happy StarWars Day. πŸ™‚

    May 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • EdNv


      May 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  21. John

    "HEY! We all know that the moon is NOT made of green cheese... but what if it were made of barbeque spare ribs? Would ya eat it then?"

    May 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  22. patrick

    you can tell there will be a super moon cause the way people are acting! and something is gonna happpen on 12-21-12 we just dont know what! good luck and god bless

    May 4, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • KAS

      "you can tell there will be a super moon cause the way people are acting! "

      There is no difference in people's activities during a full moon compared to any other time. It is just an old wive's tale from the days when people didn't understand the natural world around them and attributed outbursts and oddities to demons and spirits.

      "and something is gonna happpen on 12-21-12 we just dont know what!"

      12-21-12? You're bringing up that canard? Nothing will happen on that date which will be out of the ordinary. Guaranteed. People will be born, people will die, the Earth will continue to revolve about the sun, the moon about the Earth, and life will go on. What fantasy land are you living in?

      "good luck and god bless"

      Never mind. I see the problem.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:54 am |
      • Nah

        kas: "Never mind. I see the problem."

        Man, you got trolled big time.

        I feel sorry for you.

        May 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
      • Penny

        People are lunatic a*sholes, 24/7, year round; the only change you see, is when it gets about 105 in the shade, and is @ 100% humidity; then they act even worse than "normal."
        "Good luck" & God bless" are rather contradictory sayings, aren't they? Just say "God bless, & leave the non-existent "luck" out of it.

        May 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
      • Penny

        & yes, something really is going to happen; let me tell you what...
        I am going to stand in my field and be drained of blood by mosquitoes and red-bugs, (chiggars to you yankees), almost to the point of death...ALMOST; while they are feasting on my blood, fire ants will sting me all over my body, causing excruciating pain. Regardless, I will persevere, and take fantastic photos of the giant moon!

        May 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  23. b

    i think i will wave at the man on the moon

    May 4, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  24. rjp34652

    SUPER MOON will also cause a lot of extra births and abherrent human behavior. The phrase 'lunatic' comes from such occasions. Hospital ER's will be crowded and general nuttiness will be greater than usual.

    Watch and learn.

    May 4, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • EdNv

      9/11 was an inside job too

      May 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  25. LuisWu

    The additional gravitational pull of the moon at closest approach, although very very small, is still much greater than when all the planets line up or when the Sun lines up with the plane of the galaxy as it is doing now. So forget about doomsday in December of this year. It ain't gonna happen.

    May 4, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • jana

      there never is a dooms day, there is a spiritual revolution though. The only changes coming, watch
      on the collective, we can change the world. Kiss the Moon!

      May 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  26. ipayattention

    i was told the moon is inching slowly away from does it get closer?....was i lied to in school again?

    May 4, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Steve

      No you were not lied to. It is in fact inching away however the difference in orbit is thousands of miles. It will take millions of years for those inches to become thousands of miles. There is also a theory that it will go away for a while but then come back in. It will be a race between the moon hitting the Earth and the Sun going Nova on us. (A few billion years)

      May 4, 2012 at 10:39 am |
      • Moon Man

        @Steve: our sun cannot go nova. Not massive enough for that. But it will eventually expand into a red giant. Earth's moon moves away from us about 1 inch per year. We need not fear ever having the moon actually escape, though. For the lifetime of our planet, the moon will remain in its orbit.

        May 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • JWoody907

      No, you weren't lied to, the moon is moving away from the Earth. The reason that it sometimes looks closer or further away is the content of the atmosphere, and the angle that you're viewing it relative to the curvature of the Earth.

      Think of it as the same reason your passenger side car mirror says "Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear" because it has a curve to it, unlike the driver's side mirror. Reverse this curvature and make the other car the moon, and the mirror the atmosphere.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:52 am |
      • Strategic Bob


        What are you smoking, son? The question was about the moon's orbit gradually getting further from the earth, not about how sometimes it looks bigger due to atmospheric lensing.

        The moon's orbit is eliptical, not perfectly circular. That means that over the course of a single orbit, the moon will vary in its distance from the earth. At perigee, like on Saturday, the moon will be at its closet point on that orbit. At apogee, it will be at its furthest point on that orbit.

        The moon's orbit is also growing larger in that the moon draws further from the earth over time, but only by very small amounts. The increase in distance from the earth is only a matter of inches per decade. Whether or not the moon will continue to move further and further off or if there is an oscillation in the size of the moon's orbit is, from what I can gather, still an open question.

        Finally, the moon sometimes looks larger when it is on the horizon due to atmospheric lensing. The degree of atmospheric lensing is not constant.

        Does that help?

        Now, put out that joint.

        May 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • LuisWu

      You must not pay THAT much attention. πŸ™‚ It plainly says that the orbit of the Moon is elliptical (egg shaped), not circular. So the distance from Earth varies considerably. It is indeed moving away from the Earth but only by an inch or two a year. So it will take millions of years for it to move away from Earth altogether.

      May 4, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  27. pedro

    ooops, perigee means closest. ai caramba.

    May 4, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Steve

      I remember by associating Apogee with Away. Perigee is indeed closer.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  28. pedro

    of course @apogee - nearer then looks bigger.

    senor rob: por favor, no rob el banco. happy bday.

    May 4, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  29. WaitaMinute

    Wait a Minute, I thought light pollution meant we aren't going to be able to see the stars? Oh I guess- we can see the moon but not the stars- that's the ticket. Just like cold weather is global warming because, the ice is melting and that cold water that just melted is now flowing in the ocean causing cold weather- or even better the emmissions from china and india are blocking the suns light, that's what's causing cold weather. A Hyppthesis a minute- that's what I call reall freedom.

    May 4, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Shane

      There is a huge difference between the affects light pollution has on a faint, far away object and one that is much closer to the earth.

      And light pollution is actually proven. The brighter it is around you the more difficult it is to see dim objects in the sky. Its actually fairly common sense if you actually think about it for a second.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:03 am |
      • clyde

        Despite increased light pollution you can still spot dimwits, like "WaitaMinute", by the stupid things they say.

        May 4, 2012 at 7:19 am |
      • Strategic Bob

        Clyde has it right!!!!

        May 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
      • Nah

        clyde: "Despite increased light pollution you can still spot dimwits, like "WaitaMinute", by the stupid things they say."

        Despite the internet being almost 20 years old, dimwits still can't spot a troll from a mile away.

        May 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Primewonk

      I've never been able to figure out why folks who purposefully choose to be ignorant about science will go onto science threads and post inane drivel that demonstrates their ignorance.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Bill

      Being able to post stuff to prove you are an uneducated ignoramus just like you did is freedom.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  30. mark

    Wait, I thought the moon moved in more or less a circular pattern around Earth with some bumps and wobbles. Is this true that it is elliptical rather than round?

    May 4, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • svann

      All orbits are elliptical to some degree.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Chris

      Circles ARE ellipses. Orbits are never perfectly circular, but then again, they're not perfectly elliptical, either. Over time, they look more like a Spirograph drawing. (Remember those pre-video-game gems?)

      May 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  31. Well, sort of...

    The Full Moon always looks big and bright. This one will be about 8% larger than normal, not enough to make a noticeable difference.

    The author is correct about the Moon illusion and does not need to go back to school. The thicker atmosphere near the horizon DOES NOT make the Moon appear larger. The Moon illusion is due to reference with early objects. πŸ˜‰

    May 4, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • Well, sort of...

      "Earthly," that is...

      May 4, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Steve

      The light is refracted more near the horizon so the Moon actually does appear larger.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  32. Andrew

    Awesome, just checked my sky-chart and it seems like around midnight tomorrow I will actually be getting a couple good hours of clear sky, and maybe a couple hours when the moon would be at the horizon of pretty viewing. Coming from Vancouver, BC, clear skies is not a very frequent occurance, but I do get some great viewing where I live. (I live behind mountains that block the light from the city, so when it is clear out, I usually get some pretty nice dark skies).

    If anyone is curious about getting a forecast for their own night sky, the clear dark skies has a good astronomy forecast, great resource for really all your "is this a good night to go look at stars" needs.


    May 4, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  33. Thatguy371

    This will be nothing compared to the fat couple next door sunbathing. Now that's a couple of big moons.

    May 4, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Emigdio Alvarez


      May 4, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  34. hi

    RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!

    May 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  35. vancouverron

    Big deal. I wanna see the earth from the surface of the moon.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • daddyishere

      Now THAT'S somethin to see. Wouldn't dare step foot off this planet anytime soon, but don't doubt it would be the eeriest and perhaps most spectacular of all sights

      May 3, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Joe

      Sorry, NASA is out of that business. Try LSD instead.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Kevin

      Earth would be larger in the lunar sky than the Moon is in ours, but not really enough to be significant. There would be two obvious differences: it would be a blue, green and white ball instead of a grey one, and it would never rise or set, or indeed move at all, because the Moon is tidally locked with Earth (from our perspective this means that we always see the same side of the Moon). Depending upon your location on the lunar surface, the Earth would be "stuck" at a certain point in the sky, and of course the far side of the Moon would never know the Earth was even there.

      The Earth would rotate so you'd see the night side, and could probably make out certain large agglomerations of city lights, such as the outline of Europe or the US east coast, but it would depend on Earth's atmospheric conditions as well as the position of the Sun...remember that if the Moon can see Earth's night side, it means the Sun is going to be somewhere in the lunar sky, reflecting off the surface and drowning out stars. Pointing a decent telescope at Earth would reveal the larger cities even in the daytime. The Great Wall of China legend is, of course, a complete fabrication.

      May 4, 2012 at 12:03 am |
      • tnskier29

        You can see lake Okeechoobee which is located in Florida. And I am serious too.

        May 4, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Jack Be Humble

      Perhaps Newt Gingrich will team up with Virgin Galactic, and work toward exploiting the moon. Unemployment does not become him. And he might get some shots at virginal interns, while exploiting space tourists all at the same time. Talk about a win, win, WIN!

      May 4, 2012 at 1:59 am |
      • tnskier29

        Actually, the Moon has an abundance of Helium 3, which could easily be used for all our energy purposes. Helium 3, is practically polutant free too. This substance wouldnt be necessarily difficult to mine since it's at the surface level and not too deep. The issue with mining helium3, is it would cost a tremendous fortune to logistically get it back to the earth in the amounts we would need. Then needing a huge cargo ship, people working in that environment, etc. would be difficult challenges to over come. Sure one day someone or some company will exploit this natural resource. Unfortunately, there isn't enough helium3 on earth to even come close to meeting humanities needs.

        May 4, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • peter

      Now that would be great, ask God for a view!

      May 4, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • Hasher Iva

      I'm with you. I want to see the Earth from a moon base. I'd give up everything to be one of the first to establish a base there. It'll have to be a private venture, because the government, any government, won't be able to pull it off.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  36. negative nancy

    LOL at everyone trashing poor Rob

    May 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  37. bill

    Even your birthday has to be all about you, doesn't it Rob? Pretty sure they pee'd in the punch.

    May 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • penny

      how ugly acting

      May 4, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  38. The Question

    Thats no moon.... its a space station....

    May 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Han Solo

      It's too big to be a space station.

      May 4, 2012 at 1:58 am |
      • Luke Skywalker

        II have a very bad feeling about this.

        May 4, 2012 at 11:42 am |
      • Chewbacca


        May 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  39. Rob, we don't care if it's your birthday

    I changed my mind Rob. I love you. I love you, walks on the beach, world peace, lunar thingies and the smell of bacon

    May 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • zieberg2

      ...sharing an ice cream cone, while riding together on a horse into the setting sun.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • penny

      What horrible people! Let me guess; you all live above the Mason Dixon.

      May 4, 2012 at 12:12 am |
      • CTYank

        More'n likely on the south side. "Thinking is hard work." (G.W.B.)

        May 4, 2012 at 5:23 am |
      • Penny

        Fitting, and telling, that you would remember such a "profound" quote.

        May 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  40. vowelmovement

    The author of this piece needs to go back to school – the reason why the moon looks largest closest to the horizon is that the observer is seeing the moon through the greatest portion of the earths atmosphere – it acts as a magnifer – the more humidity the greater the optical distortion leading to what it appears to be much a larger moon

    May 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • negative nancy

      Wrong, it;s the scale of object around it. If that were the case, everything in the horizon would also be magnified in the same scale.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • lotusblossom

      Sorry vowelmovement, but the author is correct. The moon appears bigger because of size constancy and visual cues in relation to its surroundings. It's an optical illusion based on perception. The atmospheric effect you refer to is basically refraction which gives a momentary elongation of an object in the horizon. This effect lasts only a few minutes and is different from the moon appearing bigger.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  41. Steve

    Rob, I care. Cinco de Mayo is my birthday too. Haters gonna hate. They just wish so many great things happened on their birthdays...too bad.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Gravie118

      Happy Birthday to you Steve,,,have a wonderful day.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  42. Billy

    Big Time Rush Movie on Nickelodeon takes place during the "super moon."

    May 3, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  43. what is going on ??

    What is this about Rob ?? much ? Anyway, we can see things on the moon that none will be able to see

    May 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  44. rob you motjher fiscokuer

    Rob, I need to put my stick in your mouth. Let me know if you like the dessert that comes out of it after a while too...

    May 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  45. Vince

    Have a wonderful and happy birthday Rob. Think of this mooon as your big cookie!

    May 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  46. Flipper007

    Yes,,,Rob...Hava a happy birthday, and best wishes in the year to come.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  47. letsgomets2012

    I plan on taking pics of the moon.:)

    And, Rob....have a happy! Ya only go around once in this life. Enjoy yer birthday supermoon!

    May 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  48. Rob, we don't care if it's your birthday

    Really Rob, we don't. But thanks for playing. Lovely consolation prizes for you on your way out...

    May 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • penny

      tact : a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense

      May 4, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  49. Rob

    A lot of this are happening on my birthday.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • fadsf


      May 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • KARLL


      May 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Gravie118

      Rob,,,,Have a wonderful birthday.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • penny

      Happy Birthday! It is always great to have something extra special, like this, happen on your birthday. The Yankees are just jealous, ignore them.

      May 4, 2012 at 12:14 am |


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