SKYGAZ­ERS GAWK AT EX­TRA BRIGHT ‘SU­PER­MOON’

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Skygaz­ers took to high-rise build­ings, ob­ser­va­to­ries and beaches yes­ter­day to get a glimpse of the clos­est “su­per­moon” to Earth in al­most seven decades, and snap dra­matic pictures. The un­usu­ally big and bright moon ap­peared at its most im­pres­sive as night fell over Asia, but as­tron­omy en­thu­si­asts were able to see Earth’s satel­lite loom large any­where in the world shortly af­ter sun­set. The phe­nom­e­non hap­pens when the moon is full at the same time as, or very near, perigee - its clos­est point to Earth on an el­lip­ti­cal, monthly or­bit.

It was the clos­est to Earth since 1948 at a dis­tance of 356,509 km, cre­at­ing what NASA de­scribed as “an ex­tra-su­per­moon”. Skygaz­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers headed to the best view­ing spots in Asia, where the phe­nom­e­non was vis­i­ble first, hop­ing that cloudy skies and the peren­nial pol­lu­tion that blights many of the re­gion’s cities would not spoil the fun. The east­ern Syd­ney sub­urb of Bronte be­came an un­ex­pected view­ing spot as thou­sands of peo­ple armed with pic­nic mats and cam­eras packed its small beach near Bondi to catch a glimpse of the su­per­moon af­ter a Face­book in­vite went vi­ral.

Loud cheers went up among the crowd as the moon made brief appearances be­tween heavy, grey clouds be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing. “It’s re­ally nice,” Ai­dan Mil­lar-Pow­ell told AFP of the fes­tive, com­mu­nity at­mos­phere at the beach. “Peo­ple don’t usu­ally come to­gether like this in Syd­ney for a nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non.”

Tourists, of­fice work­ers and cou­ples crowded the Hong Kong water­front as the su­per­sized moon rose over the skyscrap­ers of the fi­nan­cial hub, while fur­ther north in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal Beijing the moon climbed spec­tac­u­larly over the city’s sky­line. “I’ve never seen a moon this big,” said Lee Pak-kan, 44, who was watch­ing at the Hong Kong water­front. “The moon is quite orange too... it’s quite spe­cial.”

In the Tai­wanese cap­i­tal Taipei, more than 100 peo­ple queued up to get a look at the spec­ta­cle through tele­scopes out­side a ma­jor pub­lic hall, while oth­ers flocked to the city’s land­mark Taipei 101 sky­scraper one of the world’s tallest build­ings - to wit­ness the su­per­moon. “It’s quite mov­ing, to see it up close. It’s so big, so round, so bright,” said Ju­lia Lee, who was peer­ing through a tele­scope out­side the hall.

The su­per­moon was vis­i­ble across much of In­dia although res­i­dents of New Delhi, the world’s most pol­luted cap­i­tal, strug­gled to see it clearly through the toxic smog that has been shroud­ing the city in re­cent weeks. Mean­while, pro­fes­sional as­tronomers were at the ready at ob­ser­va­to­ries across the re­gion to ex­plain the phe­nom­e­non to cu­ri­ous mem­bers of the pub­lic. In Thai­land, as­trologers were var­i­ously pre­dict­ing the su­per­moon would bring dis­as­ter or great for­tune.

So­raja Nuan-yoo, renowned for pre­dict­ing the 2004 tsunami that killed many in Thai­land and other coun­tries round the In­dian Ocean, warned that when the moon gets close to the Earth, “nat­u­ral dis­as­ters hap­pen”. The su­per­moon also means a stronger high tide, some­thing that gets surfers giddy with ex­cite­ment, not only at the prospect of rid­ing big­ger waves, but do­ing so at night.

Fore­cast­ers had pre­dicted higher than usual tides on In­done­sia’s Bali, a fa­vorite with surfers. But the hol­i­day is­land was over­cast and rainy when the moon rose, with surfers de­cid­ing not to take to the wa­ters. As­tronomers say it can be hard to no­tice that the moon ap­pears brighter than usual. Once it is high in the sky, it can be hard to tell it is larger but on the hori­zon, it could ap­pear quite spec­tac­u­lar. To get the best view, Pas­cal Descamps of the Paris Ob­ser­va­tory rec­om­mended that peo­ple choose some­where with a well-known land­mark in the fore­ground. Su­per­moons are ac­tu­ally quite com­mon - there is one every 14 months on av­er­age. “But some su­per­moons are more su­per than oth­ers,” said Descamps. —AFP

— Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: Peo­ple ob­serve the “su­per­moon” spec­ta­cle yes­ter­day from Bala­jat beach in Salmiya. The moon is at its clos­est po­si­tion to earth since 1948, mak­ing it the bright­est in nearly 69 years.

The “su­per­moon” is cov­ered by clouds be­hind the sky­line of Frank­furt yes­ter­day. — AFP

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