What is a supermoon and when can you see tonight’s ‘Flower’ Moon?


The Flower Moon is the last Super Moon of 2020 (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

This week sees the final supermoon of 2020 grace the skies as the ‘Flower’ Moon rises in the sky.

The full moon will rise in the sky on Thursday – potentially getting in the way of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower which is also lighting up the night this week.

And as well as being visible in the early hours of this morning you can expect to see it again after sunset.

But just what is a supermoon, when can you see it – and how did this one get its name?

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit brings it in closer proximity to the earth than at any other time – this is known as its perigee.

A supermoon will appear brighter and larger than normal, and can be anything from 14% to 30% brighter than the average moon.

The term was first coined by astronomer Richard Nolle in 1979, when he explained that the phenomenon ‘is a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit’.

The moon was already visible at sunrise this morning (Picture: Getty Images)

In order for a moon to achieve supermoon status it has to come within 226,000 miles of Earth.

How did the Flower Moon get its name?

Like last month’s Pink moon, the name doesn’t relate to any physical features the moon may have at this time, but rather its name signifies the flowers that bloom during the month of May.

Nasa explained in a blog post about the event that the names were first used in a Maine Farmers’ Almanac, which first published ‘Indian’ names for the full moons in the 1930s.

It follows last month’s super Pink Moon (Picture: PA)

‘According to this almanac, as the full Moon in May and the second full Moon of spring, the Algonquin tribes of what is now the northeastern United States called this the Flower Moon, for the flowers that are abundant this time of year,’ the post read.

‘Other names include the Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.’

This year we’ve already seen the Worm Moon and the Pink Moon – but you’ll have to wait until 2021 to see another supermoon if you miss this one.

When can you see tonight’s Flower Moon?

If you were up early this morning you might have seen the Flower Moon, as it was visible before sunrise.

However you should also get a good view of it after sunset tonight.

Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory, told the PA news agency: ‘Technically the exact moment of full moon is 11.45am, however the moon will not be visible in the sky in the UK at that time.

‘Times for moonrise and set vary slightly across the UK, but not by more than about 10 minutes or so.’

Sunset is due at around 8.30pm tonight, and the moon is set to rise at around 8.44pm – so any time after that will be a good time to see it.

MORE: Flower Moon 2020: Amazing pictures show final supermoon shining over the UK

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