Monday night will deliver the biggest supermoon in 70 years
ASTRONOMY fans across the country have been encouraged to get their telescopes out of the closet this Monday night to catch one of the most impressive supermoons seen in nearly 70 years.
Stargazers have already been treated to supermoons several times this year, but Monday's event represents the closest the moon has been to the earth since 1948.
"It comes down to the shape of the orbit the moon makes around the earth," Australian astronomy researcher David Reneke says.
"Contrary to popular belief - the orbit is elliptical, not circular."
To keep things simple - the moon will be about 50,000 km closer to the earth than most standard rotations, which will hopefully lend itself towards a spectacular show in the skies come Monday.
"Based on how things are currently progressing, the moon will appear to be about 15 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than normal," Mr Reneke says.
"We'll also see a return of that distinctive yellow-orange tinge seen with supermoons."
While the actual size of the moon may not be as big as some watchers may be hoping for, Mr Reneke says there will be a distinctly noticeable difference in how much moonlight is on offer.
"Basically it'll be so bright you'll be able to read a newspaper pretty easily at midnight," he says.
"This is a relatively rare event, a bit of history. I'd encourage everybody to at least have a look on Monday."
While clear skies will offer the best results, a telescope won't be needed to catch the spectacle.
It's also suggested a late afternoon viewing, with the moon framed against the horizon, will provide the best showing of the visible size increase.
The moon is expected to rise about 5.50pm in Queensland.
The next time budding astronomers will see a moon this close to earth will be in 2034, possibly later.
David Reneke says there is no better jumping-off point to learn more about the cosmos.
"If it gets people off the couch and out into the night to learn a little more about astronomy, that can only be a good thing," he says.
In addition to the spectacle of the moon, space lovers will be spoilt for choice next week, with two meteor showers expected to streak across Gympie skies.
"In addition to the supermoon on Monday night, keep an eye out early on Tuesday morning for the Taurids meteor shower as well," Mr Reneke says.
"Later in the week, around Thursday, we're also expecting the yearly Leonids shower."
Meteor sightings reward patience, with early morning hours between midnight and 4am expected to yield the best chance for an appearance.
THE FULL MOON PHENOMENON: Two theories
1. There's something in the water
IT has often been said the presence of a full moon can bring out the strange, stupid or even dangerous side of people.
This fear has now become so engrained amongst the public, and emergency workers in particular, that the mere thought of what a supermoon might drive somebody to do is concerning.
Despite this widely held belief however, there are conflicting theories and ideas about just what turns rational, sensible people into absolute lunatics.
"Everybody has a different opinion on this, but everybody also seems to agree something happens when there's a full moon out," Gympie local Dianne Woodstock says.
"From what I've heard though, a lot of the effect comes from the water in our bodies."
Due to the human body being largely comprised of water, there's speculation the same forces responsible for changing tides could be changing us as well.
"There's trouble when the moon gets closer, that I'm sure of," Mrs Woodstock says.
2. No mystery to moon madness
DAVID Reneke has offered a different reasoning for the strange behaviour caused by a full moon.
Immediately sceptical about the influence of electromagnetic energy or the water in our bodies, Mr Reneke gave a more simple explanation.
"It's because of the light - people tend to stay out and stay awake for longer," he says.
"Before there was artificial lighting, people tended to stay out longer during full moons because it was so much brighter."
Rather than anything chemical or physical, as Mr Reneke insists, mishaps and strange behaviour during a full moon comes down to old fashioned fatigue and human stupidity.
A massive increase in population around urban centres, can also blamed to some extent.
"Put simply, there are more people around now," Mr Reneke says.
"Naturally there'll be a lot more incidents," he said.
But with Monday night's supermoon is expected to be 15% brighter, can Gympie expect some lunacy?
"I don't believe it, it's all moonshine," Mr Reneke says.