How To Photograph Super Moons And Other Cosmic Events

Full worm moon 2019: Watch the last supermoon of the year this week

The year’s final supermoon will coincide with the spring equinox, the term used to mark the end of winter. 

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According to the United States Naval Observatory, the equinox, which occurs in the spring and autumn, is the moment when the center of the sun is directly above the equator.

During this vernal equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and both the Northern and Southern hemispheres get the same amount of rays; night and day are nearly equal length.

The 2019 spring equinox will occur on Wednesday, March 20. Four hours after the arrival of the equinox, we’ll witness the first full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere and the first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. That moon will also be a supermoon.

>> Related: What to know about the spring equinox

According to Space.com, the March 20 Worm Moon—a nickname for the first full moon in March—will reach its full phase at 9:43 p.m. It will reach perigee (the closest point in its orbit around Earth) at 3:48 p.m. on March 19.

Why is it called a Worm Moon?

“At the time of this Moon, the ground begins to soften enough for earthworm casts to reappear, inviting the return of robins and migrating birds— a true sign of spring,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac. “Roots start to push their way up through the soil, and the Earth experiences a re-birth as it awakens from its winter slumber.”

The nickname was first given by Native Americans — the Algonquin tribes in particular — who used lunar phases to track the seasons.

What is a supermoon?

According to NASA, the moniker supermoon was coined by an astrologer in 1979 and is often used to describe a full moon happening near or at the time when the moon is at its closest point in its orbit around Earth.

>> Related: What is a supermoon and how does it affect us?

Supermoons may appear as much as 14 percent closer and 30 percent brighter than the moon on an average night.

The moon’s average distance from Earth is approximately 238,000 miles.

Where are the best places to see the supermoon?

Wherever the sky is clear and the moon is visible is an ideal place from which to experience the spectacle. 

But if you’re really up to making an adventure out of it, consider heading to a state park or the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville.

Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp is notorious for being one of the best spots in the world for star gazing and was named a gold-tier “International Dark Sky Park.”

You can also make your way to one of the nine best places to see stars around Atlanta.

Any of those spots would make great viewing points for a supermoon, too. 

Best ways to photograph the supermoon?

According to National Geographic, seeing the supermoon near the horizon with buildings, trees or mountains for scale will make the moon appear slightly larger in your photos, even though it isn’t.

>> Related: Full snow moon on the way; it’s the largest supermoon of the year

“Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself, with no reference to anything,” Bill Ingalls, a senior photographer for NASA, told National Geographic last year. “Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.”

Other photo tips from National Geographic staff photographers:

  • Shoot with the same exposure you would in daylight on Earth.
  • Don’t leave your camera shutter open too long. This will make the moon appear too bright and you won’t be able to photograph lunar detail.
  • If you’re using your smartphone, use your optical lens only. 
  • If you’re using your smartphone, do not use your digital zoom. This will decrease the quality of your photo. Instead, take the photo and zoom or crop later.
  • Use a tripod or a solid surface to keep your phone stabilized.
  • Use your fingers to adjust the light balance and capture the lunar detail.

More from National Geographic.

A plane flies in the sky in front of the largest supermoon of 2019 on February 19, 2019 in London, England.
Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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