The brightest supermoon of the year is coming, which is exciting even if you don't quite understand what a supermoon is — yet. In the first week of December, the moon will reach the point of its orbit where it's closest to the Earth. This will make for a pretty breathtaking spectacle, once you've learned where and how to see the 2017 supermoon on Dec. 3.
A supermoon sounds a little bit mythical in nature, like a supporting character for the latest Marvel superhero movie. But it's actually a term for a scientific phenomenon for when a full moon coincides with the moon's perigee on the same day. The perigee is the point of a moon's orbit where it's closest to the Earth. So basically, a supermoon happens when we get to see the moon at its fullest and closest point to us mere mortals here on planet Earth.
In case you didn't know, the moon's orbit around our planet isn't a perfect circle. It's actually an orb, which is why we only see a supermoon three or four times each year. It takes perfect timing for the orbit to match with the fullness of the moon.
Luckily for us, a supermoon is pretty hard to miss, so seeing it with your own eyes is one of the more accessible natural experiences you can easily enjoy.
On the night of Dec. 3, the moon will appear seven percent larger and 16 percent brighter than usual, according to National Geographic. So, no, it's not going to be a similar experience to an eclipse or anything, and to the visual eye, it might not be as obvious as you would immediately think.
The best time to see the supermoon will be just a few minutes after sunset, when something called the "moon illusion" happens. The moon illusion is an optical illusion that makes the moon look even brighter and bigger than it actually is when it's located near the horizon. This is basically just a trick of the mind, caused by your brain's attempt to reconcile the line of the horizon with the movement of the moon.
That said, the best place to watch the supermoon would obviously be somewhere where you can see the horizon, right when the moon becomes visible.
If you can get super close to the horizon, you'll be able to see the supermoon with your naked eye. Remember you can always amp up the experience and enjoy the view even more by bringing along a camera or telescope to peer up at the sky with friends and loved ones.
If you can't grab the supermoon right at sunset, or you're stuck inside somewhere, there are other options for you to experience the majesty of this massive moon. For one, you can watch the supermoon via this live webcast that the Virtual Telescope Project will be running. That way, you can be a part of the moon's big night out, even if you're stuck inside for a late work meeting or a night class. You can also just enjoy the supermoon later on in the evening, as the moon should still appear noticeably bigger and brighter than on other nights.
If you have to miss this supermoon altogether, fear not! You can plan for coming supermoons in 2018: There will be one on Jan. 2 and another on Jan. 31st.
If you're wondering whether the supermoon will affect your mood, it honestly just might.
Although the effect is small, our bodies are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon — an effect so small that it is altogether irrelevant normally. But the supermoon isn't normal, it's massive, so hey, who knows what will happen on Dec. 3?
So, perhaps now is the perfect time to tell someone you love them, to ask for that raise you deserve, or to finally tell off that one co-worker who corners you in the elevator and rants about her juice cleanse. If you get into troubled waters for acting out, you can always blame it on the supermoon.