‘Supermoon’ brightening up skies around UK

A ‘supermoon’ is brightening UK skies this evening as it moves closer to Earth, appearing 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual.

The full moon was visible from about 3.47pm, with the moonrise about 45 minutes later.

The Met Office said it should be visible in most parts of the country, although there could be cloud in some areas.

Traditionally called a Cold Moon, the supermoon will appear at its brightest at around midnight, according to Tom Kerss, an astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich.

He said: “This year’s Cold Moon is closer to us than the average full moon this year; close enough to qualify as a supermoon, according to the widely accepted definition.

Sunday's 'supermoon' rising over the lighthouse at South Shields, Tyne & Wear

Image: Sunday’s ‘supermoon’ rising over the lighthouse at South Shields, Tyne & Wear

“The moon will reach its highest point above the horizon at midnight local time. This is when, weather permitting, it will appear at its clearest and brightest.”

The full moon will be 222,761 miles from Earth, closer than its average 238,900 miles.

Mr Kerss said: “During moonrise and moonset, you might think the moon looks unusually large, but this is an illusion created in the mind when it appears close to the horizon.

“In fact, the change in the moon’s apparent size throughout its orbit is imperceptible to the unaided eye.”

If you want to see the Earth’s natural satellite in greater detail, Mr Kerss advises using binoculars or a telescope,which he said is “perfectly safe”.

A supermoon seen in London in November 2016

Image: A ‘supermoon’ seen in London in November 2016

He added: “You can see many of the moon’s larger features, although at full moon its surface looks rather flat, since we don’t see any shadows cast across it until its night side begins to creep into view.

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“However it is possible to see the dark maria (seas) in stark contrast to the brilliant highlights of the full moon if you allow your eyes to adjust and pick out these ancient volcanic flood plains, once filled with lava.”

The first supermoon of the year was visible on 12 January, while the second was on 3 November.