Tonight, the moon will be closer to the Earth than it has been in 68 years. Here’s how you can make the most of it.
Perhaps sensing that the Earth is in need of a bit of a pick-me-up at the moment, the moon will be getting 30,000 kilometres closer than usual — making it appear almost 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than your average full moon.
We know it seems like a ‘supermoon’ is a pretty regular occurrence, but this one is special — the moon hasn’t gotten this close to Earth since 1948, and it won’t be this close again until 2034.
We should have clear skies and a temperature of about 25 degrees in Brisbane tonight, making our humble city one of the best places in Australia to watch all the action.
The supermoon is expected to rise at 5:51pm AEST, and hit its apex of awesome at about 12:52pm AEST — perfect for night owls, and for anyone planning to transform into a werewolf at midnight.
Incidentally, the term ‘lunatic’ derives from the belief that the full moon causes madness — a pervasive myth, even though Brisbane police officer Dr Geoffrey Sheldon recently published a paper that proved police don’t actually get busier on nights with a full moon.
Tips on how best to photograph the supermoon have been published by NASA, an organisation that knows a thing or two about how to doctor pictures of the moon.
Bill Ingalls, NASA’s senior photographer, says there are five keys to nailing your supermoon pic.
Context is everything
If you really want to convey the sheer majesty of the supermoon, make sure you give your pic a frame of reference. “Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything,” Ingalls says. “I’ve certainly done it myself, but everyone gets that shot. Instead, think of how to make the image creative — that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.”
Do your homework
This is asking a bit much, considering the supermoon is happening tonight, but Ingalls says you should invest some time in scouting for the perfect vantage point. “It means doing a lot of homework,” Ingalls admits. “I use Google Maps and other apps — even a compass — to plan where to get just the right angle at the right time.” If you’re in Brisbane or on the coast tonight, you’ll want to head to a beach facing east or the highest point of a hill or mountain with unobstructed views to the east.
You can use a smartphone
You don’t have to rush out and spend a bundle on a high-end camera to capture the supermoon. In fact, Ingalls says your smartphone will do fine. “You’re not going to get a giant moon in your shot,” he warns, “but you can do something panoramic, including some foreground that’s interesting. Think about being in an urban area where it’s a little brighter.” To get the right light balance, Ingalls says to “tap the screen and hold your finger on the object (in this case, the moon) to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.”
Keep in mind that the moon is on the move
It’s easy to forget, but Ingalls says photographers using a DSLR with a long lens need to remember that the moon is a moving object. “It’s a balancing act between trying to get the right exposure and realising that the shutter speed typically needs to be a lot faster,” says Ingalls, who uses the daylight white balance setting to capture moonlight.
Get the kids involved
This isn’t going to happen again for a while, so don’t forget to bring the kids along on your quest for the perfect shot. “I think this would be a lot of fun to do with kids, if nothing else, to just have them witness it and talk about what’s taking place,” Ingalls says. And if the kids are with you, why not incorporate them into the shot? “There are lots of great photos of people appearing to be holding the moon in their hand and that kind of thing,” Ingalls says. “You can get really creative with it.”
Where will you go to watch the supermoon? Let us know in the comments below!