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Science / Space

Biggest Supermoon Of 2020 Expected Tuesday Night

moon behind mountains
NASA/Bill Dunford
The biggest supermoon of the year will peak Tuesday night at 10:35 p.m.

Those looking for a beacon of hope amidst the COVID-19 pandemic will find a large shining one skyward as Earth will experience the biggest and brightest moon of the year on Tuesday night.

Stargazers after sunset will notice the full moon appears closer than normal in what is called a “supermoon.”

The moon will appear full for about three days through Thursday morning, peaking Tuesday at 10:35 p.m., according to NASA.

“Each full moon is a tiny little bit different, but tonight’s going to be a beautiful big bright one,” NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller said. “I always think they’re best to see if you can catch it rising, the full moon rises at sunset, and at sunset, if you look to the eastern horizons, you’ll see this big moon coming up, and whenever you see the moon closer to the horizon, it seems a lot bigger to me.”

The April Full Moon is also known as the Pink Moon -- not a reference to the actual color of the moon, but to the herb moss pink, one of the first flowers to bloom in spring on the east coast of the United States.

The moon will instead appear to have a golden color near the horizon and fade to a bright white as it rises overhead.

April also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. It was expected to be the third mission to land on the moon, but instead was aborted due to faulty testing of an oxygen tank. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise instead looped around the moon, and returned safely to Earth on April 17, 1970.

To celebrate this, NASA said in a press release it's looking to send the first woman and next man to the moon with the Artemis Program, the ongoing crewed spaceflight program predominantly led by NASA that aims to land on the Moon by 2024.

Earth will also experience overlapping meteor showers in late April as well as two more meteor showers and a lunar perigee, the point where the moon’s orbit is closest to the Earth, in May.

“To me, the way you become a scientist yourself and to participate in this is ask questions. Why does the moon look different from one night to another? Where is it rising or landing? All of these things change continuously,” Thaller said. “And when you start observing and figuring out for yourself, there’s just wonderful new worlds of questions that open up.”