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Smallest full moon of 2016 on April 22

EarthSky Facebook friend Curtis Beaird in south Georgia captured the shot above.

Tonight – April 22, 2016 – it’s the farthest full moon, and smallest full moon, of the year. We’ve heard it called the micro-moon or mini-moon. This full moon comes less than one day after reaching lunar apogee, the moon’s farthest point in its monthly orbit. It lies some 30 thousand miles (50 thousand km) farther from Earth than 2016’s closest full moon – a supermoon – due on November 14.

Every year has a closest full moon, and a farthest full moon. The mini-moon often returns about one month and 18 days later with each passing year, meaning that, in 2017, the year’s smallest full moon will come on June 9.

In 2018, the year’s smallest full moon will fall on July 27; and in 2019, the smallest full moon will occur on September 14. The micro-moon or mini-moon frequently recurs in periods of 14 lunar months (14 returns to full moon).

Image credit: NASA. The moon's orbit is closer to being a circle than the diagram suggests. The moon is closest to Earth in its orbit at perigee and farthest away at apogee.

Image via NASA

The crest of the moon’s full phase comes on April 22, 2016 at precisely 5:24 Universal Time.

Although the full moon occurs at the same instant all around the world, our clocks read differently in various time zones. In the United States, the moon turns exactly full on April 22, at 1:24 a.m. EDT, 12:24 a.m. CDT, and on April 21 at 11:24 p.m. MDT and 10:24 p.m. PST.

So in the Americas, the full moon happens on the night of April 21-22, and may have already passed by the time you are reading this post.

Meanwhile, your calendar probably says that April 22 is the full moon.

No matter where you live worldwide, look for the moon to look plenty full on the night of April 22. As with any moon near the vicinity of full moon, it’ll light up the nighttime from early evening until dawn.

In North America, we often call the April full moon by the names of Pink Moon, Grass Moon, Egg Moon or Fish Moon.

But in recent years, we’ve also heard the term micro-moon to describe the year’s smallest full moon. It’s not a name (like Pink Moon) tied to skylore. It’s not bound to a particular month or season.

It’s just a modern term to describe the year’s smallest moon.

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the April 2016 full moon (2016 April 22 at 5:24 Universal Time. Image via Earth and Moon Viewer

Day and night sides of Earth at the instant of the April 22, 2016 full moon (at 5:24 Universal Time). Image via Earth and Moon Viewer

Like most astronomers, we at EarthSky used to call the year’s smallest full moon an apogee full moon.

The terms mini-moon and micro-moon stem from popular culture. They roll off the tongue more easily than apogee full moon. As some indication of the appellation’s growing popularity, we’ve found that the NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day and timeanddate.org sites both like to call the year’s smallest full moon a micro-moon.

In many respects, the micro-moon is the antithesis of a supermoon. The micro-moon, or the full moon aligning with apogee, is the polar opposite of a full moon supermoon, the full moon coinciding with perigee.

Fourmilab’s lunar perigee and apogee calculator

The photo contrasts the Micro Moon of April 2007 at the right to the supermoon (perigee full moon) of October 2007 on the left. View larger

View larger | Supermoon versus micro-moon in the year 2007, via Wikimedia Commons.

Every month for the next seven months, the full moon will come closer and closer to Earth until the November 14 supermoon, closest full moon of the year.

That November full moon will be the year’s biggest and brightest moon, only 221,524 miles (356,509 km) away. That’s in contrast to the moon’s mean distance from Earth of about 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles).

In fact, the November 14, 2016, supermoon will be closer to Earth than the moon has been thus far in the 21st century (2001-2100). The moon won’t come so close again until the full moon of November 25, 2034.

But it’s the December, 2052, full moon that’ll outdo them all. It’ll stage the closest and largest supermoon of the 21st century (2001 to 2100).

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The moon looks full for several days around full moon.  William Vann caught this rising almost-full moon on March 4, 2015.

The moon looks full for several days around full moon. William Vann submitted this shot in 2015.

Bottom line: The micro-moon or mini-moon – smallest full moon of 2016 – comes on April 22. It lies about 30,000 miles (50,000 km) farther away from Earth than the full moon supermoon of November 14, 2016.

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Bruce McClure

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