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SCIENCE IN MIND

‘Supermoon’ won’t be back until next year

The supermoon, shown rising behind Long Island, was photographed from Castle Island before clouds covered the view.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

The supermoon, shown rising behind Long Island, was photographed from Castle Island before clouds covered the view.

If you missed the full moon on Sunday, you’ll have to wait until next year to see the next “supermoon” — the full moon at its closest approach to Earth.

The moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse, meaning that its distance from the Earth varies. But about once every 14 months, the full moon coincides with the “perigee,” the closest approach the moon makes.

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This year, the supermoon occurred Sunday, when the full moon sat just 221,823 miles from the Earth.

Amanda Thompson, a planetarium presenter at the Museum of Science, said that the term “supermoon” comes from astrology. The supermoon doesn’t hold much interest to scientists as an astronomical phenomenon — except as a reminder to take a look up and wonder at the night sky.

“The main reason we care about it is it encourages people to go out and look up at the moon,” Thompson said. “It’s something you take for granted every once in awhile.”

The supermoon may be as much as 30 percent brighter, and 14 percent larger, than a typical full moon, Thompson said.

The closest supermoon of the century is still a couple of decades away, calculated to take place Dec. 6, 2052. That day, the full moon will be 221,439 miles from Earth.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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