Supermoon May 2021: What is it and how can you spot it?

May's supermoon is set to be bigger and brighter than usual. Credit: PA

The full moon on Wednesday is set to delight skygazers as they will have the opportunity to spot a rare "supermoon."

The last supermoon occurred on 27 April, though Wednesday's supermoon is the closest one of the year.

  • What is a supermoon?

A supermoon occurs at perigee: the point in the Moon's orbit where it is closest to Earth.

A perigee full moon appears a little brighter and larger than the average full moon.

PA Credit: PA Graphics
  • When can we see the supermoon?

The supermoon, also called the 'Flower Moon,' is expected to be visible at dawn on Wednesday when the moon is at its closest point to Earth, although full illumination will not occur until later in the day.

Making Wednesday's supermoon even more unusual is that it also coincides with a total lunar eclipse for the first time in two years, but this won't be visible in the UK.

According to Patricia Skelton, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the best time to see the supermoon in the UK will be in the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, or later on Wednesday evening after sunset.

The last supermoon rising through clouds in April this year Credit: AP

She said: "A supermoon happens when a full moon occurs at the same time, or close to the time, that the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth, a point called perigee.

"Perigee occurs at 2.51am on May 26, with full moon occurring at 12.14pm on the same day.

"The supermoon will rise in the east around half an hour after sunset and will be visible throughout the night."

During this time, the Earth’s natural satellite will appear around 14% bigger and 30% brighter.

Ms Skelton said: "For the best views of the supermoon, wait for the moon to climb higher up into the sky."

The 'Flower Moon' will be visible on Wednesday Credit: PA

The event also coincides with a lunar eclipse which will see the moon turn red, but that will not be visible in the UK, Ms Skelton said.

She said: "People viewing the supermoon from the western US, western parts of South America, Australia or south-east Asia will witness the supermoon turn a shade of crimson red as a lunar eclipse will be taking place on the same day.

"This change in colour is not due to a physical change taking place on the moon, but simply because the moon will drift into the shadow of the Earth.

"The Earth’s atmosphere bends light from the sun and bathes the moon in a crimson red light.

"Although UK stargazers won’t be able to see the lunar eclipse, the supermoon is still worth a look."