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OUT OF THIS WORLD | Night Sky this Week - a weekly look at what there is to see in the night sky

Closest Full Moon in 86 years shines in our sky, here's when

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Monday, November 14, 2016, 9:20 AM - The closest Full Moon in 86 years, plus a celestial lineup stretches across our evening sky, a filament eruption from the Sun meant another possible round of Auroras across Canada's skies! It's the Night Sky This Week!

Closest Full Moon in over 86 years

On November 14, at 8:54 a.m. EST, the Full Moon was at its closest and largest of 2016, making it this year's Perigee Full Moon

At its peak, it was roughly 8 per cent larger in our sky compared to your average Full Moon (such as the one on July 19 of this year). While it's not easy to pick out that kind of difference, without a direct comparison available, being that much bigger to us also made it around 30 per cent brighter than normal, which was likely much easier to notice.

This also had a larger significance, as well.

At just 356,511 km from Earth when its face was fully illuminated on the morning of the 14th, this was the closest, largest and brightest Full Moon seen since January 26, 1948, when it came to within 356,462 km of Earth. Also, no Full Moon after this will come closer until November 25, 2034, when will be just 356,447 km away.

Credit: NASA's Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

So, while the last time we had a closer Full Moon was 68 years ago, if we take the entire span of time between closer Full Moons - past and future - that actually makes this the closest Full Moon in over 86 years!

Now, even though the exact timing of the Full Moon (13:54 UTC on Monday) favoured the western half of Canada to see it at its absolute closest (in the hour or two just before sunrise), this is something we could still get out for on Sunday night, and even see on Monday night as well!

On Monday night, it will still be close enough to Earth to qualify as a "super Moon" and will still be closer, bigger and brighter than it was right at the moment of last month's "super" Full Moon (on October 16).

So, if you didn't happen to catch it Sunday night or Monday morning, there's still a chance to get out and enjoy it!

SUPERMOON GALLERY: See the amazing photographs our watchers and readers have sent us this perigee Full Moon.

The Moon and planets stretch out across the sky

Look up in the sky over the next few evenings, in the hour or so just after sunset, and you'll see the Moon and three planets jostling into position in a celestial lineup across the night sky.

The Moon, Mars, Venus and Saturn, at 6 p.m. EST, local time, from Monday to Thursday of this week. Credit: Stellarium/S. Sutherland

Although not visible to the unaided eye, distant Pluto is also taking part in this display (located at the centre of the crosshairs in the animation above). If you have very dark skies and a decent enough telescope (something with at least a 10" aperture), aim it at the trio of stars between Mars and Venus, and focus just above the middle star of the trio (which goes by the name Manubrij, or Omicron Sagittarii). It's a dim magnitude 14.24, but it's there.

Throughout the week, this arrangement will stretch out across the sky, as the Moon rises later and later, and the planets get farther apart from each other as well. As of Friday night, Saturn is below the tree-tops in the view above, but would still be visible in flatter terrain. Beyond that, the arrangement stretches out even further, so that, by Sunday, it will stretch from the eastern horizon to the western horizon.

In these instances, I find it to be a very cool exercise to imagine a line intersecting the planets, so that you can "see" the plane of our solar system.

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Canyon of Fire erupts on the Sun

The Sun isn't very active these days, now that it has settled down from its 2012-2013 maximum. There are only a few small sunspots on its face at any time, and very few, if any, significant solar flares.

Still, at the same time, coronal holes have been delivering speedy lashes of the solar wind, and just this weekend, an immense filament - a line of cooler, darker solar matter strung across the Sun's surface - ripped away from the Sun, causing a spectacular "canyon of fire" in the process.

A "canyon of fire" rips open on the Sun's surface, hurling a dark CME into space. Watch just right of centre. Credit: NASA SDO

The filament was on its way towards Earth, and NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center is forecasting a fairly solid "hit" on Earth's magnetic field.

NOAA's WSA-Enlil Solar Wind Prediction model for this week, showing the CME's progress towards a November 8 encounter with Earth. Credit: NOAA SWPC/S. Sutherland

As a result, NOAA issued a G1 (minor) geomagnetic storm watch for the daytime hours of November 8.


Update: Although the CME arrived Tuesday night, a little later than anticipated, it was fairly weak, and thus did not cause widespread auroras. Want to see some amazing auroras anyway? Check out the website of Malcolm Park Photography.

Sources: Thumbnail courtesy Eve Martin

Watch Below: NASA's Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio presents every phase of the Moon for 2016.

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