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'Supermoon' to illuminate sky beginning Monday morning

The so-called supermoon is the brightest full moon since 1948.

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    A jet plane flies across the moon seen from Beijing, China, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. The brightest moon in almost 69 years will be lighting up the sky this week in a treat for star watchers around the globe.
    Ng Han Guan/AP
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Starting Monday morning, stargazers around the world will have the chance to witness the largest and brightest full "supermoon" since 1948. 

This month's supermoon, the colloquial term for a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon's closest approach to Earth, marks the fifth supermoon this year, following moons in March, April, May, and October.

But the full moon beginning on November 14 is special, as it is "not only the closest full moon of 2016 but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century," writes NASA in a blog post. "The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034." At its closest approach early Monday morning, the center of the moon came within 221,523 miles (356,508 kilometers) away from the center of the Earth. 

As Christina Beck reported for The Christian Science Monitor this month: 

As the moon takes its monthly trip around the Earth, the elliptical (egg-shaped) orbit means that the moon is not always the same distance away. Because Earth's Greek name is Gaia, Greek astronomers called the closest approach peri-gee (close-to-Earth), while the furthest point of the moon's orbit is called apo-gee (far-from-Earth).

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The last apogee occurred on Halloween, when the moon was the farthest from Earth that it will be all year, while November 14th’s supermoon will be the closest the moon has been to Earth in a long time.

While some Americans will be stargazing, others will be keeping an eye on the tides. The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flooding advisory through Wednesday for parts of Florida.

The November full moon is typically called the "Beaver Moon," leading some to label the event starting Monday a "Beaver Supermoon." The Beaver Moon's name originated with the Algonquin people and refers to the period in November when beaver hunters would set their traps with the goal of scoring enough furs to last the winter, as Joseph Dussault reported for The Christian Science Monitor last week.

This year's Beaver Supermoon will appear to be about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a normal full moon, according to NASA. 

But while lunar enthusiasts around the world will head outside to witness the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime event, it's unlikely that a typical human eye will be able to notice any significant difference, astronomers say. 

Prime viewing time for North Americans on the East Coast is Sunday and Monday nights, NASA planetary geologist Noah Petro told the Associated Press. 

"Ultimately, people should be more geared toward just getting outside and enjoying it," Dr. Petro said, noting that while even he will have trouble detecting any difference in size and brightness, the important thing is getting people "talking, thinking and caring about the moon."

"Everyone gets to see the moon," he added. "It's a great shared resource for all humanity." 

This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

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