Panaji/Mumbai: Here's a New Year treat for those who love stargaze. The first full moon of 2018 will be a supermoon, and will occur on Tuesday.
In the wee hours of January 2, the moon will appear 14 per cent larger and nearly 30 per cent brighter than a normal full moon, according to scientists. This will be the biggest supermoon of the year.
A supermoon is a full moon which occurs when the Moon is closest to the Earth, making it appear bigger and brighter. Since the Moon's orbit is elliptical, one side (apogee) is about 50,000 km farther from the Earth than the other (perigee).
The moon is set to reach its perigee, at a distance of 3.56 lakh km from the earth, at 3.34 am and will set around 7.54 am. The best time to watch this supermoon would be when it is setting over the western horizon early in the morning. People can witness it from any place where the western horizon is clear.
Another full moon will light up our skies on January 31 too. The supermoon on January 31 will feature a total lunar eclipse, with totality viewable from western North America across the pacific to Eastern Asia.
The moon will lose its brightness and take on an eerie, fainter-than-normal glow from the scant sunlight, giving it a reddish hue. Totally eclipsed moons are for this reason called "blood Moons".
The January 31 supermoon will also be the second full moon of the month, often referred to as the "blue moon", which happen every two and a half years, on average.
With the total eclipse, it will be a royal spectacle indeed, a "super blue blood" moon, NASA said.
"The supermoons are a great opportunity for people to start looking at the moon, not just that once but every chance they have!" said Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
The last supermoon had appeared on December 3, which was called a "cold moon". That was the first and only supermoon of 2017. It appeared about seven per cent larger and 15 per cent brighter.
Caution in Goa
New Year celebrations will begin with a touch of caution in Goa, with tourism authorities in the coastal state warning of unusual tidal activity and possible flooding of beaches on Monday due to the supermoon phenomenon on January 2.
In an advisory issued to all businesses located near the coastline, Goa tourism director Menino D'Souza has also cautioned against the supermoon phenomenon occurring once again on January 31.
"January 2 and January 31, 2018 are full moon days where the moon would be the closest to the Earth in its orbit also known as supermoon, due to which there is likelihood of a surge in the high tides and possibility of flooding of the beaches affecting the shacks, water sports and other beach activities," D'Souza's advisory said.
Goa is one of the most popular beach and nightlife tourism destination in the country and attracts more than five million tourists every year, especially in the period from Christmas to New Year.
Beach shack operators had complained about a lack of warning earlier this month, after a combination of cyclone Ockhi and Supermoon wrecked havoc on the beaches, with the rising water damaging several beach shacks and eroding beach stretches, popular with tourists.
D'Souza has asked all businesses located along the coastline, in close proximity to the water including beach shack owners and water sports operators to take safety measures in wake of the recurrence of the Supermoon.
"Shack owners, water sports operators and other activities on the beaches are hereby directed to be on high alert on January 1-2 and January 30 and shall take all precautionary measures for avoiding any dangers to life and property," D'Souza added.