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A Super Show from the Moon that We Haven't Seen in Years

A 2014 supermoon silhouettes the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Golden Dome on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. On Monday morning, a supermoon, the likes of which haven't been seen since 1948, will be visible, weather permitting. Tribune File Photo/Robert FranklinClosest approach since 1948 on Sunday, Monday

Earthlings can look forward to a particularly big and bright moon early Monday.

If you miss seeing this so-called supermoon, you won’t have a similar chance for a long time — 18 years, to be exact.

Supermoon is the closest full moon of the year. The last time the moon was this close was in 1948.

The closest approach will occur at 6:21 a.m. EST when the moon comes within 221,523 miles (356,508 kilometers), according to NASA. Full moon will occur at 8:52 a.m. EST.

“It will look a little bit bigger and a little bit brighter” than a typical full moon, said Clive Neal, a professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in lunar research.

The best views of the supermoon should be late Sunday and early Monday, weather permitting. No special equipment is needed. Even with ordinary binoculars, people should get a very clear view of the moon, including seeing impact basins and other details of its landscape, Neal said.

He’ll study images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a robotic spacecraft that has been orbiting the moon and collecting data since 2009.

On July 21, 1969, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. The last manned moon mission was in 1972.

Neal thinks it’s time to go back.

“I would like to see the U.S. head an effort to return to the moon and live there permanently,” the scientist said. The moon could be used as a base to prepare for a manned mission to Mars, he said.

“It’s a way to test living in extreme environments,” he said. The moon contains resources, including water, that would be helpful on a mission to Mars, Neal said.

Although it’s unlikely the United States would commit to full government funding for a moon or Mars mission, private companies are eager to participate in such a venture, Neal said. “They look upon this as an investment,” he said.

Neal sees the moon as both a physical reality and as the new frontier for humankind. “The potential is there. It’s inspirational,” he said.

— Margaret Fosmoe, South Bend Tribune
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Published originally:
South Bend Tribune (Nov. 12, 2016)