The next supermoon in 2014–which will also be a black moon–is slated for January 30, but astronomy experts warn that even though the moon could appear bigger in the sky, it also could not appear at all.
Supermoons sometimes occur together with full moons or new moons. They take place five to six times a year, and happen when the moon is near perigee, its closest approach to Earth.
Because of how close the supermoon is, it can appear as much as 14 percent larger in the sky and 30 percent brighter to our eyes than normal moons, according to NASA.
But the super moons don’t always end up as especially good viewing, according to astronomy experts.
Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California in San Diego, discussed being at a party a couple years ago when people went outside to view the supermoon.
“I was delighted to see that the Moon was just creeping over the next hill over, about 200 meters away,” he wrote on his blog. ” I went inside to alert others at the party about the fantastic moonrise in progress, only then to find out that this was a ‘supermoon.’ I found that there was an overall sense of disappointment among the viewers that the moonrise—while cool in and of itself—did not seem especially cool or amazing relative to other moonrises. I got home to find a message from another disappointed friend, registering a complaint about not ‘feeling the joy.’”
Murphy says that it’s hard to tell that a supermoon is bigger, especially if the moon is in the sky–not on the horizon–where it automatically looks smaller.
“So my advice is: enjoy a moonrise whenever you get the chance. There’s plenty to appreciate about the experience without the hype. I can only hope that the hype has not had a net-negative effect in turning people off from enjoying the natural sky.”
Neal Sumerlin, the founding director of Belk Observatory at Lynchburg College, also discussed the phenomenon, suggesting on his blog that the phrases super moon and blue moon are overblown, and that he doesn’t get excited about them.
Black moons, meanwhile, are the second new moon that occur in a single calendar month. Similar to the supermoon term, black moon is not an official astronomy term.