Moon to be closest to Earth

2012-05-04 07:18

Cape Town - The Moon will reach its closest approach to the Earth on Sunday 6 May during a full Moon, the South African Astronomical Observatory has said.

On Sunday morning, the Moon will reach its perigee (closest approach to Earth) when it is about 357 000km from the Earth.

"The Moon will make its closest approach to the Earth (at perigee) for the year in May. It will happen early morning on Sunday 6th May at about 05:33 and at this time the Moon will be 357 000km from the Earth," SAAO astronomer Dr Nicola Loaring told News24.

To observers on the ground, the apparent diameter of the Moon will appear the largest for 2012 on 6 May and astronomers believe that there may be some tidal effects due to the Moon, but it may not be noticeable to casual observers.

"The full Moon will have an angular size of 33.7 arc min at this time and is referred to as a perigee full Moon.  This coincidence, whereby the full Moon occurs at the same time as the Moon's closest approach in its orbit happens roughly every 18 years," said Loaring.


According to information from the SAAO website, the Moon will next be as close to Earth on 23 June 2013.

Full Moons are generally associated with spring tides because of the combined gravitational pull from the Moon and Sun, but in larger bodies, gravity can result in significant heating because of tidal forces.

Astronomers say that this is the reason that Jupiter's moon Io is an active body. The friction generated by the tidal force between itself and the parent planet results in a heating of its core that results in volcanoes on the surface.

"The closeness of the Moon on the 6th May will have a slight effect on tides around the world. It will result in extra-high 'perigean tides'.

"However, in most places the tides will only be a few centimetres higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15cm, so no great floods or natural disasters [are expected]," Loaring added.

The weather outlook for Sunday is clear over Johannesburg and Cape Town, so sky watchers in those cities should have a good viewing experience.

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  • Mark - 2012-05-04 07:41

    So would Saturday evening, sunday morning OR sunday night be the best time to observe this phenomenon? I am based in Cape Town and normally full moon is best observed in the early evening, but this article says early morning... any ideas? Thanks

      zane.zeiler - 2012-05-04 08:45

      At 05h30 on Sunday morning the Moon is going to be setting on the horizon (west obviously), hopefully you have no obstruction to it's view like hills or buildings, you'll also only have about 15 minutes to observe it before it's completely gone...

      zane.zeiler - 2012-05-04 08:52

      Also just another bit of info, tonight Saturn will be located directly below the Moon with the bright star Spica to the left of the Moon and would be best observed from about 20h00 to 01h00, so Ima get some beers and dust of me old telescope!

  • Preshen - 2012-05-04 08:16

    Werewolf’s will appear

  • revaro.winkler - 2012-05-04 08:21

    smoking cubanas whit castro

  • Jill - 2012-05-04 08:33

    I will look at it through my binoculars and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to see the man in the moon, the actual people who filmed the Apollo landing and any other "ET" persons that may be present..... JOKES ASIDE though, when you can actually see a heavenly object this close to earth and how beautiful it is, you can just stare in wonder and be grateful that we are indeed part of the great universal cosmos (as Carl Sagan used to say). Just go out and enjoy it (and try not howl at the moon guys, even if your sports team loses on Saturday!!) ooxoo

      zane.zeiler - 2012-05-04 08:58

      Beautiful indeed, but even more so when observing the rings around Saturn and the moons of Jupiter through a telescope, if this sort of stuff excites you you should invest in one, you won't be sorry...

  • Compos - 2012-05-04 08:45

    Do I need to sharpen my wooden stakes for my Mother in Law?

  • Jill - 2012-05-04 09:18

    Hondbyt, very little excites me these days.... so I may very well take your advice and invest in a telescope (maybe staring into space will be my new hobby) :)

  • HeinrichVenter - 2012-05-04 14:39

    Definitely gonna have my camera out sunday morning!

  • sallie.sali - 2012-05-05 20:04

    Wht difference does it make whn viewing with a naked eye? Sounds lyk it's gonna b more or less è same size, unlike an eclipse whr u can actualy see smthng,

  • Jill - 2012-05-07 07:52

    Hey everyone...I looked and looked but still couldn't see ET or any of his friends....even the man (or woman) in the moon was elusive. What I did see though was a most wonderous celetial object that really is a marvel to behold. I felt like I wanted to reach up and touch it. Absolutely beautiful

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