Skywatchers will get a special treat Tuesday when the biggest, brightest supermoon of 2019 lights up the night sky.
This will be the second in this year’s trio of back-to-back supermoons. The first occurred Jan. 21, and the third will fall on March 21.
A supermoon is a full moon that occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its monthly elliptical orbit around our planet. Since they’re a bit closer to us, supermoons appear larger and more luminous than ordinary full moons — though scientists are quick to point out that the difference is generally so subtle as to be imperceptible.
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“They are essentially the same,” Patrick Hartigan, an astrophysicist at Rice University in Houston, told NBC News MACH in an email. “You can maybe tell the difference from a normal full moon if you make a practice of looking at a lot of them” — something Hartigan said is true for him.
This month, the moon will be closest to Earth at 4:07 a.m. EST Feb. 19. The moon won’t be completely full until 10:53 a.m. EST Tuesday.