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!
Bottom line: A composite photo and animation contrasting the year’s closest moon (a crescent moon) and farthest moon (a full moon).
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.