Backyard Observatory

The Year's Biggest Supermoon Is Tonight. Here's What You Need to Know.

April 2020 supermoon
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Tonight is going to be a big night for the werewolves in your neighborhood. The full moon on Tuesday, April 7, will be the third (or second, depending on how you count) in a string of consecutive supermoons. This one, however, is the crown jewel of the series. 

The perigee-syzygy moon (supermoon) on April 7 will be the full moon that is closest to the Earth of any in 2020. That means, not only does it qualify as a supermoon, but it will be the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. The supermoon will rise about half an hour before the sun goes down on April 7, according to Time and Date. That time will vary a little depending on where you are in the country, so be sure to look up when the sun will set near you before going out to look up. Regardless, you should be able to see the moon throughout the night.

MORE: April is a great time to spot Venus in the sky. Here's what you should look for. 

What is a supermoon?

It has nothing to do with dropping trou. It's the informal name given to a full moon that is within 90% of its closest approach to Earth. Because the moon's orbit around Earth is elliptical, full moons occur at varying distances from our planet. The term supermoon simply means the moon is at one of its closest points to our planet, making it appear larger and brighter than it would during any other full moon.

During a supermoon, the moon is at or near its perigee, the closest point of its orbit. At that point, it's about 14% larger and 30% brighter compared to a micromoon, which is when we have a full moon at the apogee of its orbit, or the furthest point of its orbit from Earth.

When is the next supermoon?

The fourth and final supermoon of this series will come on May 7. Though, some astronomers wouldn't classify the full moon in May as a supermoon. It depends a bit on the definition you decide to use. Nonetheless, the full moon in May won't be as brilliant as April's. And, whether or not you accept April or May as the final supermoon of this run, you won't get another opportunity to see one until April 26, 2021. 

The next time a supermoon will be as big as tonight's won't be until May 26, 2021. 

What is that star near the supermoon?

The bright star near the supermoon on April 7 and 8 is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. The full moon in April always fall over the constellation, per EarthSky, the pairing signals "the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere."

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in and stream the northern lights.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.