March 19, 2011 in City

If clouds part, watch for ‘supermoon’ tonight

Staff and wire reports
Bill Ingalls photo

In this photo provided by NASA, the full moon is seen as it rises near the Lincoln Memorial, Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Washington. The full moon tonight is called a “Super Perigee Moon” since it is at it’s closest to Earth in 2011. The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993.
(Full-size photo)

If Inland Northwest residents can get a break in the weather tonight, the moon may give them a treat.

Tonight’s full moon won’t be just any old full moon. It’ll be bigger and brighter. It will appear larger as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 18 years.

Local residents got a sneak peak of the big, bright moon Friday night.

Scientists estimate the “supermoon” rising in the east at sunset today will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter at its peak.

Full moons vary in size because of the oval shape of its orbit, with one end closer to Earth. Today, the moon is 221,565 miles away — the closest to Earth since March 1993.

This celestial phenomenon should give people an excuse to take time out for the moon.

Usually, “most people are completely oblivious to its presence,” said Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

While Saturday’s full moon will shine brighter than normal, it won’t be as luminous as the near-supermoon of 2008 when it was higher in the sky, Chester said.

This type of full moon tends to bring a range of high and low tides, but experts say that’s nothing to worry about. Nor is there any truth to the superstition that supermoons cause natural disasters.

“Nothing exciting is going to happen,” Chester said.

The Spokane-area forecast today calls for isolated showers with thunderstorms possible after 2 p.m. The high will be near 47, and the chance of precipitation is 20 percent, the National Weather Service said.

Tonight’s forecast: A slight chance of rain showers before 11 p.m., then a slight chance of rain and snow showers. Snow level is at 2,700 feet and will drop to 2,200 feet. Mostly cloudy tonight with a low around 31.

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