Tomorrow night, following the final Manhattanhenge of the year, the first of threesupermoons this summer will appear in the night sky. A butterfly will intersect with a firefly. A child will let go of her balloon and feel loss for the first time. A man will make brief eye contact with a seal in the East River, but not tell anyone about the encounter. Over on Randall's Island, Phish will tease "Harpua." A long lost letter will be delivered to that old woman who lives next door to you, and she'll finally smile. A brief moment of pure happiness will overcome you. Life is goddamn magic.
Magic is impossible to explain, especially when the entire universe is involved like this, but NASA can help clarify some things here. They coined the term "Supermoon," which is cooler than the scientific term: "perigee moon." It's defined as:
"Supermoon is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.
It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that at first glance would seem to have an effect. The 'super' in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer, but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference. The supermoon really attests to the wonderful new wealth of data NASA's LRO mission has returned for the Moon, making several key science questions about our nearest neighbor all the more important."
All that terminology is a real buzzkill, and Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory is here to ruin this once-believed-to-be-beautiful thing for us a little more. In a statement he said: "It's not all that unusual. In fact, just last year there were three perigee Moons in a row, but only one was widely reported. There's a part of me that wishes that this 'supermoon' moniker would just dry up and blow away, like the 'Blood-Moon' that accompanied the most recent lunar eclipse, because it tends to promulgate a lot of mis-information."
Our three summer Supermoons will occur July 12th, August 10th and September 9th. Not that it matters anymore.