The third time this year a full moon has occurred near to the moon’s closest approach to the Earth – making it a supermoon – and it will be the last such event in 2019.
We have been looking at the records for the occurrence of what we call supermoons today.
The last time that this occurred so close to the point of the equinox was in the year 1905, in March over 100 years ago.
It looks to us that the next time we see this with the spring equinox, at least, won’t occur until the year 2144.
So for most of us this could be called a once in a lifetime coincidence – Tom Kerss – astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London.
An equinox is commonly regarded as the instant of time when the plane (extended indefinitely in all directions) of Earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun. This occurs twice each year: around 20 March and 23 September. In other words, it is the moment at which the center of the visible Sun is directly above the Equator. In the northern hemisphere, the equinox in March is called the Vernal or Spring Equinox; the September equinox is called the Autumnal or Fall Equinox.
However, because the Moon (and to a lesser extent the other planets) causes the motion of the Earth to vary from a perfect ellipse, the equinox is now officially defined by the Sun’s more regular ecliptic longitude rather than by its declination. The instants of the equinoxes are currently defined to be when the longitude of the Sun is 0° and 180°. There are tiny (up to 1¼ arcsecond) variations in the Sun’s latitude (discussed below), which means the Sun’s center is rarely precisely over the equator under the official definition. The two understandings of the equinox can lead to discrepancies of up to 69 seconds.
On the day of an equinox, daytime and nighttime are of approximately equal duration all over the planet. They are not exactly equal, however, due to the angular size of the Sun, atmospheric refraction, and the rapidly changing duration of the length of day that occurs at most latitudes around the equinoxes. The word is derived from the Latin aequinoctium, from aequus (equal) and nox (genitive noctis) (night).
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