Have you ever exclaimed during an unexpected romantic outburst that you could buy your partner the Moon? The Moon will be closest to our planet tonight in almost a thousand years, so it might be a good idea to follow through on that promise.
The New Moon will be precisely 356,568 kilometres away from Earth on January 21, 2023; the average distance is 384,400 kilometres. The Moon last passed this close to Earth in 1030, which was 992 years ago.
Instead of following a circular orbit, the Moon travels in an elliptical one. And for this reason, its distance from our planet isn’t always constant. We also refer to the Moon as a supermoon or the perigee when it is at the point in its orbit where it appears slightly larger.
Although the aforementioned factors make this supermoon particularly noteworthy, there is a small problem: we won’t be able to see it.
This weekend’s perigee, which occurs when the Sun and Moon are at the same celestial longitude, also known as a conjunction, coincides with a new moon. Since the illuminated side of the Moon is facing away from Earth during the new phase, no one can see it from that location.
So even with sophisticated equipment, we won’t be able to see this once in a millennium event, which would also be challenging to detect.
Though we cannot see the Moon, we can most definitely feel its presence, so do not worry. The Moon’s gravity will still affect tides on Earth’s surface even though it is invisible, so everyone should be on the lookout for any potential King Tides this weekend as they could flood coastal areas.
Meanwhile, astronomer and science communicator Graham Jones became aware of this anomaly while researching the closest earth-moon separations in over 2,000 years at the New Moon.
Jones discovered three new moons in 1030, this weekend, and in 2368 where the separation was less than 356,570 km (345 years later). The new Moon on Saturday will be the closest in 1,337 years as a result.
Furthermore, tomorrow will see a conjunction of Venus and Saturn. At approximately 6:07 PM (IST), 16 degrees above the southwest horizon, the pair will be visible from New Delhi. Then, as they descend towards the horizon, they will set at 7:30, one hour and 39 minutes after the Sun.
If viewed through specific telescopes and binoculars, they might fit in the same field of view. The spectacle will be visible to unaided eyes as well.