You’ve heard the term supermoon, but what is it exactly? Is the moon actually bigger? Does it exert some special power over us when it shows up supersized in the sky?
There are a lot of myths about supermoons, especially since they’ve gained a lot of media attention over the past few years. But why are people so fascinated by them? And what does a supermoon mean in astrology?
Here’s everything you need to know about what a supermoon really is (and isn’t).
A supermoon is “super” because the moon is closer to the earth
A supermoon is a full moon that appears larger and brighter than the typical full moon. What makes it “super” is based on the distance between the moon and the earth.
The technical name for supermoon is perigee-syzgy moon. (Try THAT one at your next spelling bee!) At a perigee moon, the moon is at its closest point to the earth, a distance that can cause it to appear much larger and brighter. Or, as the modern moon might say, “supersize me!”
In a nutshell: Perigee means that the moon is orbiting at its closest distance to the Earth. Syzgy means that the Earth, moon and Sun are aligned. Essentially, this is what happens at every new or full moon.
Can a supermoon happen at a new moon?
Yes! Not all supermoons are full moons. A supermoon occurs when the moon is at its closest proximity to the earth, no matter what phase it’s in.
By strict definition, there can only be two supermoons a year: one when the new moon is at its closest point to the earth and one when the full moon reaches its nearest proximity.
How often does a supermoon occur?
Supermoons occur about three or four times a year, sometimes more often. A supermoon occurs at either a new moon or a full moon and they’re not really that rare (even if they sound like it.) In 2016, there were six supermoons.
What does a supermoon mean in astrology?
You may have read in your horoscope that a supermoon is coming and hoped that it would bring some special added bonus gifts. Maybe it will!
Depending on the zodiac sign that the new moon or full moon is in, some astrologers believe that a supermoon will amplify the astrological traits of that sign.
In astrology, a new moon occurs when the Sun and moon are in the same zodiac sign, positioned at the exact same degree on our modern horoscope wheel when measured from our vantage point on earth. A full moon occurs when the Sun and moon are in opposite zodiac signs, but at the same degree. For example, a Libra full moon could occur when the Sun was at 24° Aries and the moon at 24° Libra.
There are also mini-moons—the opposite of a supermoon
Supermoons also have a cute little opposite (let’s call them mini-moons). Their technical term is apogee-syzgy. A mini-moons occurs when the moon is at its farthest distance from the Earth, which causes it to appear small. (Awwww…so adorable!)
What is the history of supermoons?
So where does the supermoon idea originate? Astrologer Richard Nolle cleverly created the term “supermoon” back in 1979—the year after the modern Superman movie debuted in 1978, in fact.
So despite their recent hype in horoscopes, supermoons are not actually a new phenomenon. Some stargazers have observed that these larger-appearing moons have coincided with earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. However, the tides are pulled the strongest by any new or full moon, so it’s hard to say if the super-charged beams are to blame.
How is a supermoon different than an eclipse?
Well, sometimes it’s not different at all! A solar or a lunar eclipse can also occur during a supermoon. Both supermoons and eclipses happen at new or full moons.
However, an eclipse is a unique phenomenon that occurs when the moon is exactly between the Sun and the earth (a solar eclipse) or the earth is exactly between the Sun and the moon (a lunar eclipse). They can happen whether the moon is far or close to the earth in distance, which make eclipses different from supermoons.
Does a supermoon always mean the full moon will be extra powerful? We believe the proximity of the moon can dial up the energy people receive—and if nothing else, a full supermoon can make a lovely sight, especially if you do a new or full moon ritual.
Much like the nurturing and creative powers it represents, the mystical moon has inspired awe for eons. And when the skies serve up a supermoon, we feel that connection more strongly, as the gravitational forces of this heavenly body come closer to those of our planet.
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