For all the space and astronomy enthusiasts in Pune, the supermoon is here. Now is your chance to view the moon up close and grab some of the most beautiful shots of the fifth largest satellite in the solar system. Skywatchers in the city can now eagerly gaze through their telescopes to look at the moon which happens to be at its closest to the earth since 1948.
But, what is the supermoon?
Supermoon is not the technically correct astronomical term. It’s just catchy!
The right term is perigee-syzygy. The distance between the moon and the Earth keep varying. Perigee is when the moon is at its closest distance from the earth. Tonight, it happens to be a full moon night and the moon is at its perigee. Dhruv Paranjpye, an astronomy enthusiast at Akashmitra, explains that although the moon is much closer to the earth than it was years ago, these shifts shouldn’t be exaggerated, “This is because, our eyes aren’t so trained to notice any visible difference. Therefore, although the moon indeed is closer to Earth than on many previous occasions, the difference in its angular size isn’t noticeable to our eyes. The moon subtends an angular size of approximately half a degree and this keeps varying by smaller numbers.”
Where can you see it from?
The best place to view the supermoon would be from an elevated place like Parvati Hill. You can even travel outside the city limits to get a better view of the moon. If you don’t want to head out then you can choose to go to your building terrace and catch a great view of the moon at its scenic best.
Paranjpye also suggests that the best time to view the moon is when it is close to the eastern horizon just after the sunset or an early riser could view the moon, as it sets on the western horizon.
To get the best experience out of this, you may even want to use a telescope to view the moon at a macro level. Eureka Science Centre on Tilak Road sells telescopes of various sizes that you can use to have a closer look at the moon. Paranjpye asserts that one must be careful while observing the moon through a telescope, “The full moon when viewed through a telescope is immensely bright and therefore you may not really enjoy watching that with the naked eye for a very long time. Instead, use of appropriate filters, to block a large percentage of light from entering the telescope, can help you observe the full moon with much lesser strain on your eyes and make the experience pleasurable.”
If you’re a science-lover and interested in astronomy, then you too could pursue this hobby by joining several amateur astronomy clubs that are based in the city. “Pune is the hub for astronomy clubs. You have IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics) and NCRA (National Centre for Radio Astrophysics). People who are interested should start reading science magazines and attend public lectures held by IUCAA. There is a tremendous opportunity for Puneites to excel in this field,” claims Paranjpye.
The supermoon isn’t the only celestial happening that will take place this year. Around the last week of December, asteroid occultations will take place. Paranjpye explains, “Asteroid occultation is when an asteroid passes a star and come into the line of sight, it dims the start light for less than a minute. This small dim will help determine the geometry of the asteroid. It is a tedious event.” Apart from this, you can also view Venus as it is visible every evening, right above the western horizon.
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