What is a Super Moon?

Supermoons are everywhere lately. We see them talked about on social media by magical and non-magical people alike. Some people are enthralled by them and others don’t really care. But it seems like every full moon this year has been a “Supermoon”. So, I went on a minor mission to figure out what that phrase actually means, if it has any basis in science, or if it’s just a phrase people use when the full moon looks bigger than normal.

According to NASA…

It turns out that the word “Supermoon” does actually have some basis in science. According to NASA, the word “Supermoon” was first used in 1979. Wikipedia says that the first definition of “Supermoon” was created by Richard Nolle who said that a Supermoon is “…a new or full moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, Moon and Sun are all in a line, with Moon in its nearest approach to Earth.“[Supermoon, Wikipedia] Now of course, I don’t have access to the full magazine in which this definition was printed but it has been updated by Nolle a few times since original publishing.

The above definition mentions perigee so let’s expand on what perigee is! In basic terms, perigee in relation to the moon is the point in the moon’s orbit at which the moon is nearest to Earth. The moon can reach perigee without being full, but when the moon is full and reaches perigee, it appears to be larger in the sky!

Is there a standard?

There doesn’t seem to be a standard when it comes to assigning the title “Supermoon” to a full moon. Astronomers will generally use the perigee to determine if a full moon is a Supermoon. Some astronomers will use the distance from Earth to the moon to determine if it gets the Supermoon label. Here are a few examples of the different distances some people use to determine whether or not a moon is a Supermoon.

Sky & Telescope

The term “supermoon” was first coined by astrologer Richard Nolle to describe the full or new Moon when it’s less than 223,000 miles (359,000 km) from Earth. That’s about 6% closer than the average Earth-Moon distance, which is 239,000 miles.

Sky & Telescope

Time and Date

Supermoon: A Full or New Moon that occurs when the center of the Moon is less than 360,000 kilometers (ca. 223,694 miles) from the center of Earth.

Time & Date

EarthSky

EarthSky uses supermoon dates as determined by astronomer Fred Espenak. He’s best known for his time at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where he became a world expert on eclipse predictions. His method of calculating supermoons takes into account changes in the moon’s orbit during each lunar cycle.

EarthSky

From all of these examples, we can see that there is a difference between them and when they will assign the label “Supermoon” to a Full or New Moon. If you’re like me and prefer there to be a standard definition or neat little boxes of criteria that need to be checked for a moon to be Super then, just like me, you’re probably sorely mistaken. But you know what? I think that’s okay!

Supermoons of 2022

I found a table from Astropixels that was created by Fred Espenak. In this table which I have included below, we can see that the Supermoons based on Fred Espenak’s calculations include the full moons of May, June, July, and August. So it seems we have four straight Full Moons that are Supermoons! This table even shows us the micromoons — something entirely different — and the next Full Supermoons for 2023!

Supermoons in Witchcraft

Not everyone puts stock into Supermoons or moon phases in general. If you are going to work with the energy of a Supermoon there might be a few things you want to keep in mind. Again, just as with many things in witchcraft, there is no one-size-fits-all definition when it comes to the energy of a Supermoon. Since there’s no “one true definition”, I will give you my perspective on utilizing the Supermoon for magic.

For me, the energy of the Full Moon is magnified during a Supermoon since the moon is generally closer to Earth. This will amplify the current energy of the Full Moon in its current zodiac sign. For example, if the Full Moon is in Pisces and it happens to be a Supermoon, the emotional energy during that time will be amplified. For me, that’s the only difference between a “regular” Full Moon and a Supermoon.

More Moon Magic

If you enjoyed this post you might like these other ones!

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A blue moon is not actually a blue moon. The moon doesn’t turn blue — even though that would pretty neat for a blue moon — but there are two different definitions for the term “blue moon”. The older definition says that a blue moon refers to the…

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The Dark Moon is Rising || A Time of Reflection

If you work with moon phases, you may be familiar with the term dark moon. This can depend, though, because some witches call it the new moon and skip over the dark moon. That’s fine – your practice is your own. I don’t tend to skip…

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