'Supermoon' brightens up skies for stargazers

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The "supermoon" rising above Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire.Image source, Danny Lawson
Image caption,
The "supermoon" rising above Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire.

Skywatchers have enjoyed spectacular views of this month's "supermoon" - when the Moon appears larger and brighter in the sky.

The supermoon phenomenon happens when the Moon reaches its closest point to Earth, known as a perigee Moon.

The Moon circuits the Earth in an elliptical or oval orbit - a supermoon occurs when the perigee Moon is also a full Moon.

The supermoon was the last opportunity to see one in 2017.

Image source, SEAN QUINN
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The moon loomed above Yeadon, in Leeds

To observers, the Moon appears about 7% larger and 15% brighter, although the difference is barely noticeable to the human eye.

Last year the Moon made its closest approach to Earth since 1948 - it will not be that close again until 25 November 2034.

Nasa has called this weekend's sighting the first in a "supermoon trilogy" over the next two months, with others to come on 1 January and 31 January.

December's full Moon is traditionally known as the cold Moon.

The full Moon on Sunday afternoon - when it sits opposite the sun in the sky - was 222,761 miles from Earth, closer than its average 238,900 miles.

Image source, Karli Franklin
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The supermoon over the Christmas light trail at Blenheim Palace
Image source, Owen Humphreys/PA
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The supermoon has also been seen over a lighthouse in South Shields, South Tyneside.

This Moon's elliptical orbit means that its distance from Earth is not constant but varies across a full orbit.

But within this uneven orbit there are further variations caused by the Earth's movements around the Sun.

These mean that the perigee - the closest approach - and full moon are not always in sync.

But occasions when the perigee and full moon coincide have become known as supermoons.

Image source, EPA
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The supermoon was visible around the world, with this view coming from Washington
Image source, EPA
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This picture of the supermoon was taken in Jakarta, Indonesia