Students look at the supermoon from a telescope in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Students look at the supermoon from a telescope in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: A large number of students and sky watchers gathered at the Institute of Space Technology (IST) to observe the supermoon which was 14pc bigger than usual and 30pc brighter, which has happened after 70 years and will not happen again till 2034.

IST watched the supermoon through the largest telescope in the observatory on the roof top of the institute and visitors took turns watching the moon through the telescope, which is the largest functional telescope in the country with a 0.4 metre mirror and is used to observe the outer space. On Monday, another telescope with a 0.25 meter mirror was also used to see the moon.

Assistant Professor Space Science Dr Fazeel Mahmood Khan told Dawn the larger appearance of the moon was caused by the special alignment of the three most important heavenly objects which are the Earth, Sun and Moon.

“When the moon is full, the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the earth such that when one sets, the other rises. Also the face of the moon towards earth is fully lit up, reflecting about 10pc of the sun’s light. Today’s moon is special because it appears 14pc larger in size and 30pc brighter than a normal full moon,’ he said.


The moon appeared to be 14pc larger, 30pc brighter on Monday


He explained that the moon has an elliptical or oval shaped orbit around the earth, such that the distance between the two changes. Its closest approach to earth is known as Perigee and the farthest point is known as the Apogee.

Monday’s full moon occurred when the moon is within 90pc of the closest possible approach to earth.

“The earth also orbits the sun in an elliptical orbit. Around this time of the year in the winters, the earth also approaches the Perihelion, which is its closest approach to the sun. As the moon is naturally following the earth while orbiting it, it is also relatively nearer to the sun that usual. These two phenomena add up to give us a very large and very bright super moon, as everything is relatively close and this will lead to higher than normal tidal effects as well,” he said.

The last time the moon appeared to be larger and brighter was about 70 years ago and the same alignment will happen again in Nov 2034, he said.

A student, Haider Amir said he had come to see the supermoon as he was a space student and was excited to see the rare occurrence.

“If I am alive in 2034, I will tell everyone I saw the supermoon twice in my life,” he said.

Another student, Ibrar Younas said that finding out about the outer space and seeing the supermoon through the telescope was a treat for him and his friends.

An IST student, Saba Mustafa said she had brought her siblings to see the supermoon as well and also wanted pictures of the moon on Monday.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2016

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