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Close and far moons

Peter Lowenstein in Zimbabwe contrasts the size of the May 27 waxing crescent moon, which was close to Earth, with the June 9 full moon, which was far from Earth.

Animation by Peter Lowenstein.

In this superb animation, Peter Lowenstein of Mutare, Zimbabwe, contrasts the size of the May 27, 2017 waxing crescent moon near perigee (closest to Earth, and thus a supermoon) with the June 9 full moon near apogee (farthest from Earth, and thus a micro-moon or mini-moon). Fortunately, there is earthshine covering the dark side of the waxing crescent, enabling us to visualize the whole lunar disk. Peter told EarthSky:

Both photographs were taken from one location in Mutare, Zimbabwe, using the same optical zoom setting (x60) on the same Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ-60 camera within two hours of moonset. The composite image (below) and animation (above) dramatically show how much larger the young crescent supermoon near the closest perigee of 2017 was than the recent full micro-moon near apogee.

Thanks to The Moon Tonight, we were able to find that the moon’s distance had changed by 29,039 miles (46,734 km) in this approximate two-week period between these two photos. The near-perigee crescent moon on May 27 was 223,475 miles (359,648 km) away, while the June 9 full moon was 252,514 miles (406,382 km) distant.

Read more: 2017’s smallest full moon on June 9

Read more: 2017’s closest supermoon on May 25

Although astronomers in antiguity had no cameras to work with, some ancient astronomers were nonetheless aware of the moon’s varying distance from Earth at least a few thousand years ago. That’s because they used a diopter (a micrometer or caliper of sorts) to measure the moon’s changing angular diameter.

Thank you, Peter!

Composite image of a full moon farthest from Earth, superimposed on an image of a young crescent moon closest to Earth. The size difference is proportionally similar to that of a U.S. quarter versus a U.S. nickel. Composite image via Peter Lowenstein.

Bottom line: A composite photo and animation contrasting the year’s closest moon (a crescent moon) and farthest moon (a full moon).

Bruce McClure