When the sun goes down tonight, the world will be treated to the largest and brightest supermoon of the year. Here's how to get the best vantage point in Australia (as well as some basic photography tips.)
Yeah, yeah: we realise you can just poke your head outside to see tonight's supermoon. After all, it's the frigging moon. These tips are designed for people who want to get the very best results possible. Remember: this is going to be the biggest supermoon of 2019, so it's worth putting in some extra effort.
Just what is a 'supermoon', anyway?
The moon on February 19-20 is going to be the largest and brightest of the year. This optical effect is caused by the moon's elliptical orbit bringing it closer to the Earth. In layman's terms, this is known as a 'supermoon' or even 'extra-super moon', due to its even larger appearance. Tonight's moon will appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other times of the year.
How do I watch the supermoon?
As astronomical events go, this one is pretty easy to watch: All you really have to do is head outside and look up. If the skies are clear in your area, the difference in size and brightness should be pretty obvious.
For best results, most astronomy buffs recommend heading to an east-facing beach or the top of a large hill or mountain (make sure there are uninterrupted views to the east!) Obviously, you should try to get there before dusk.
As with all celestial events, it pays to be away from bright city lights which have a tendency to pollute the night sky. Failing that, get on top of the highest building you can.
According to Perry Vlahos, the vice-president of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, the best vantage points in Sydney and Melbourne include Manly/Bondi and the western side of Port Phillip Bay, respectively.
Supermoon: best time to watch
The peak time to watch tonight's supermoon (i.e. - when it will be largest and brightest) is 2:53am, AEDT. In other words, better get an early night and set your alarm clock.
Bugger, it's cloudy! What now?
Annoyingly, the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting low visibility across much of Australia tonight. Brisbane and Perth are the only capital cities with a 0% chance of rain. Bah, humbug!
With that said, the supermoon will be visible all night. With a bit of luck, things will clear up before midnight.
How to photograph tonight's supermoon
If you're after a great photo, set yourself up with a vantage point to the east and lower the exposure to bring out the details in the moon's surface. (You can find some in-depth tips here.)
Gah, I missed it! What now?
Not to worry. There'll be another supermoon on Thursday, 21 March this year.
I like my bed. Can't I just catch it on Youtube or something?
If you don't want to go outside, Slooh will be livestreaming the February moon through its Canary Island telescopes.Or you can just watch the moon below.