Tonight marks the last supermoon in Australia of the year. This one has been dubbed a 'Super Worm Moon' and it's going to look spectacular (weather permitting). Here are the best times to watch in Australia and how to get the best photos.
What is a supermoon?
A "super moon" refers to the point when the moon is closest to Earth while simultaneously reaching its full-moon phase. As the name implies, super moons (also known as "perigee full moons") appear brighter and bigger than normal, which makes makes for stunning views and great photographic opportunities.
Why is this one called a super worm moon?
Because super wolf blood moon was already taken. But seriously, a “worm moon” is the nickname given to the first full moon in March as it’s the time of year when the ground begins to thaw in the northern hemisphere and earthworms resurface. (In other words, it's a nonsense term in Australia where the opposite is true.)
How to watch the March supermoon
As astronomical events go, this one is pretty easy to watch: All you need to do is head outside and look up. If the skies are clear in your area, the moon's enhanced size and brightness level 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 around 2-3am, AEDT. We recommend going to bed early tonight and setting your alarm clock.
How to take great supermoon photos
We asked astrophotographer and Nikon School lecturer Steven Morris for advice on snapping tonight's supermoon.
“When attempting any lunar or astro photography, always use a tripod. Using a tripod will reduce shaking in the camera and dramatically improve the quality and sharpness of your photographs,” Morris explained.
“For capturing a correctly exposed shot of the moon, your camera should have quick shutter speed of around 1/800th, an aperture of around F/8 will yield some nice sharp results and try to keep your ISO under 800," he added.
“To really get the detail of the moon’s surface, you should be using focal lengths of around 200mm. If your using long focal length lenses just keep in mind that atmospheric turbulence can reduce the sharpness of your moon images, so wait for a moment of clear visibility, seeing where the atmosphere settles down briefly or take a few photographs throughout the night and access how the look for the sharpest image.”
Here are some of Stephen's additional tips:
- If you can’t achieve autofocus then use your live view screen, zoom in on the moon using the live view screen and adjust your focus.
- Use a shutter release cable or the timer function on your camera.
- Depending on the phase of the moon ISO may need to be increased.
- If your using long focal length lenses just keep in mind that atmospheric turbulence can reduce the sharpness of your moon images, so wait for a moment of clear seeing where the atmosphere settles down briefly or take a few photographs throughout the night and access how the look for the sharpest image.