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Supermoon looms bright in Saturday night's sky

Published June 22, 2013 11:07 pm

Perigee • The moon will be at its closest point in its orbit early Sunday morning.
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On Saturday night, a supermoon will grace the eastern horizon.

The moon will appear about 14 percent larger because it will be at its closest point at its orbit in its elliptical path as it travels around the Earth — a point called perigee.

Each year, the moon is full and close, and it can make for some pretty nighttime views.

"Some people probably won't notice a huge difference, but the important thing is that it gets people outside and looking up," said Patrick Wiggins, NASA/JPL solar system ambassador to Utah.

Looking at the moon just as it rises over the mountains at about 9:20 p.m. will provide an even better visual treat thanks to the moon illusion — an unexplained phenomenon where foreground objects make the moon appear larger than normal.

Also in the night sky will be Venus — the brightest object in the west directly after the sun sets — and Saturn, which will be the bright, non-twinkling object about halfway up the sky due south, Wiggins said.

The weather should cooperate, with a fairly clear window Saturday night until about 2 a.m. Sunday, according to Mike Conger, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

The perigee moon, which officially occurs at 5:33 a.m. Sunday, will have a small effect on tides, though Wiggins jokes, "I've never seen a tide at the Great Salt Lake." However, it does not make people act more strangely, though the word lunacy is derived from that concept.

The next perigee moon will occur in August 2014.

For those who can't wait to explore the sky until nightfall, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will host a solar viewing party at Winchester Park, 6400 S. 1100 West in Murray, from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Special solar telescopes will be available to safely view sunspots and solar flares on the star closest to home. The event is free and open to the public.

smcfarland@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sheena5427 —

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