Hundreds in Dubai turn out for rare supermoon

Astronomy enthusiasts gathered on Monday at Mushrif Park to see a rare supermoon rising from the horizon.
The supermoon rises over residential building in Dubai Sports City. Pawan Singh / The National
The supermoon rises over residential building in Dubai Sports City. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Some people get star-struck, but on Monday as a rare supermoon slowly rose from the horizon, beaming its extra radiant glow over the night sky, hundreds of people witnessing the spectacular event at Mushrif Park were clearly moon-struck.

“The atmosphere here is beautiful,” said Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, his voice clearly filled with awe. “I’m just watching the moon rise and it looks quite big compared to normal days, and it’s so beautiful.”

Mr Al Hariri, chief executive of the Dubai Astronomy Group, has been fascinated with the wonders of our solar system ever since he bought his first telescope for Dh100 and pointed it towards the moon more than 40 years ago.

But none of those past sightings compared with the spectacle of the supermoon phenomenon observed on Monday night, he said.

“There are two things happening at the same moment now.

“We have the illusion of the moon. As it is coming up, it looks quite big, but also at the same time, this one – from my experience, because I observe the moon a lot – it looks quite bright and bigger.

“It easily is over-shining everything.”

The supermoon is the closest that a full moon will be to Earth since 1948, and a similar one will not be visible until 2034, according to Nasa.

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What is a supermoon?

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Mr Al Hariri said the rarity of the phenomenon has attracted a record number of stargazers to the moon-sighting event that the Dubai Astronomy Group organised at Mushrif Park in Dubai.

“The number of registrations has exceeded all expectations.,” said Mr Al Hariri. “We were expecting something like 50 or 60 people.

“Now we have something like 200-plus and people are flowing in. So the expectation is that maybe we can reach up to 500 people, easily.”

This year, there will be three supermoons: October 16, November 14 and December 14. But what is particularly special about Monday’s phenomenon is the fact that the moon will become full within about two hours of perigee – when one side of the moon is about 50,000 kilometres closer to earth than the other – at the same time when the Earth, sun and moon line up, making it an “extra-super moon,” according to NASA. At this moment, the moon’s Earth-facing side can be as much as 14 per cent closer to us making it appear much larger because it shines 30 percent more moonlight onto our planet.

For Sheeraz Awan, operational manager of the Dubai Astronomy Group, witnessing the event with his family was especially meaningful.

“I feel like I’m part of history,” said Mr Awan. “This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

rpennington@thenational.ae

Published: November 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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