Supermoon 2014: what is it and how can I see it?

A supermoon rises behind a Greek temple

Everything you need to know ahead of the first supermoon of 2014 this weekend

LAST UPDATED AT 12:19 ON Fri 11 Jul 2014

The moon will appear particularly large and bright on Saturday evening, in what will be the first of three 'supermoon' events this summer. Skywatchers will be able to witness the phenomenon on three occasions starting this weekend with two further supermoons due in August and September. 

What is a supermoon?

Supermoon events cause the moon to appear at its largest and brightest. They occur when the full moon coincides with the satellite reaching the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit – known as the perigee. When in perigee, the moon is just 360,000km away from us, and around 50,000km closer than when it is at its apogee, the furthest it gets from earth.

Where did the name come from?

Astrologer Richard Nolle coined the term, back in 1979. As Nasa scientist James Garvin explains in International Business Times: "It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that, at first glance, would seem to have an effect. The 'super' in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer."

How often do they happen?

Unlike other celestial events, supermoons are actually relatively common. They generally happen around once a year, though there are three due in fairly swift succession this summer.

So when is the supermoon?

The moon will be closest to earth at 11.25pm this Saturday evening, when the moon will be at a distance of 358,258km, according to The Independent. However, on 10 August there will be another supermoon event, and this time the moon will be 1,362km closer than on Saturday. This will be the brightest the moon will appear this year. A third supermoon will follow on 9 September, when it will be 358,387km away.

What is the best way to view supermoons?

Lunar buffs at Space.com recommend viewing the supermoon just after it rises or before it sets, when it is close to the horizon. If you watch as it dips behind buildings or trees, an optical illusion is produced, which makes the moon seem even larger than it really is.

Will these supermoons have any impact on earth?

Full moons generally cause spring tides, and the next three supermoons will cause perigean spring tides, where tides will be at most a matter of inches higher than normal. Scientists say it is unlikely that the coming tides will cause any flooding, unless they coincide with a particularly strong weather system.

Speculation that a previous supermoon caused the Japanese earthquake has been dismissed by Nasa. However, British coastguards have blamed a previous supermoon for the stranding of several ships. · 

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