Lunar Perigee: Why The Moon Looks So Huge Right Now

These few days past, I’ve been somewhat astounded by the apparent fullness of Sydney Harbour. Honestly, as though someone set the tap on to fill ‘er up, and accidentally left it on overnight.

See that tiny sliver of beach in the background?

That’s usually, well, a proper beach that slopes down to the water’s edge. Of late, it has looked more like a crumbling pie-crust on the edge of a very swollen, watery pie.

A mere bit o’ sand about to be gobbled up by the advancing ocean.

Anyway, it turns out that I am NOT a lunatic (in this regard). The seemingly unprecedented height of this tide is NOT a figment of my imagination. IT IS, in fact…

…THE PERIGEE.

Apogee diagram -- Wiki commons

{ via Wikipedia }

Yes, as opposed to Apogee*. For the moon keeps us company on an elliptical, eccentric [as opposed to beige] orbit, and thus every month, she spends some time in very close proximity to Earth (perigee): filling our tides, knocking us off balance, bathing our beds in bright white moonshine… before whirling away again (apogee).

But, tomorrow’s lunar perigee is not just ANY perigee. No indeed. Tomorrow, January 30, is the closest we two shall be all year. So if you have a tendency to moongaze, and find yourself marvelling at the apparent largeness of our satellite — and the fullness of our tides — rest assured that you are not imagining things. Technically, the moon is actually bigger than you remember it.

{ via NASA }

And now, when I awake tomorrow to find the ocean on the very verge of overflowing, and wonder again who left the water running, at least I’ll know who to blame.

*Personally, when I think of Apogee, the first thing that comes to mind is Cosmo…


Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventures, by Apogee Software via Wikipedia }

…and, to a lesser extent, Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen.


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2 thoughts on “Lunar Perigee: Why The Moon Looks So Huge Right Now”

  1. Pleased to find this. Read about it in print, but the internet seemed to be having an off day, with the news and astronomy sites caught up in blue moons.

    Here’s another titbit that may be of interest: the moon is getting further away from us (by 3 cm a year), so there won’t always be (and didn’t used to be) total solar eclipses. NASA calculates that the last will occur in about 713 million years. So not only are we incredibly lucky the two bodies appear the same size in the first place, we’re really fortunate to be around in the right era to see them!

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