UK & World News

  • 11 August 2014, 2:44

Supermoon Lights Up Sky In Stunning Space Pics

Dramatic images of the "supermoon" from space have been released - as stargazers in the UK prepare to enjoy the lunar spectacle.

The second of three giant full moons in a row will be visible over the country tonight, but Russiancosmonaut Oleg Artemyevposted pictures he took from the International Space Station.

A series of images he published on his Twitter account show the moon slowly disappearing behind the Earth, in whatArtemyev called a "moonset".

The moon will shine 30% brighter than normal tonight and will appear 14% bigger as it reaches the point in its orbit closest to Earth.

The phenomenon is known as "perigee" and this is the second of three-in-a-row - the first was on July 12 and the third will be on September 9.

But Sunday's moon will be the brightest of all three.

It is not unusual for supermoons to follow in such close proximity and a perigee moon is not rare - occurring around every 13 months.

However, often it is difficult for the average person to tell the difference between a supermoon and a normal full moon because of cloud cover.

Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory said: "Generally speaking, full Moons occur near perigee every 13 months and 18 days, so it's not all that unusual.

"In fact, just last year there were three perigee Moons in a row, but only one was widely reported."

While the arrival of the supermoon is a cause of excitement for most, it has serious drawbacks for skywatchers looking out for this year's Perseid meteor shower.

The lunar glare from the giant moon means the annual event, where it is common for stargazers to see more than 100 meteors an hour, will be more difficult to view.

Dr Bill Cooke from the Nasa's Meteoroid Environment Office said: "Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts."

However, Tony Markham, director of the Society for Popular Astronomy's meteor section, encouraged people not to lose hope.

He said: "The Perseids are rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen despite the moonlit sky background."

The best time to see the meteors is between Saturday and Wednesday but activity is due to peak on Tuesday.

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