The final supermoon of 2023 will be in the Friday night sky, so get your cameras ready.
This final harvest moon technically peaked early Friday morning, but it will still be at 99% visibility when it rises and hangs around until Saturday morning. But this is the last “supermoon” of the year, which means it will look even bigger and brighter.
Max Gilbraith, the planetarium coordinator at the University of Wyoming, says a supermoon is a natural result of how the moon’s orbit changes its distance from Earth.
“The moon’s orbit is tilted and more of an oval rather than perfectly circular,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Right now, it’s a little bit closer than normal. It’s the last one of the year because as the moon processes around the Earth, it will be out of position.”
Because of the ongoing orbit, there are several supermoons to see in an Earth year. The next will be visible Feb. 9, 2024.
Shooting A Supermoon
With such a beautiful moon in the sky — and it appearing so large — it’s natural to want a photo of it. Jessica Frye of Lusk made sure she didn’t miss the last supermoon of 2023 overnight Thursday.
“My future daughter-in-law posted a picture of an orange supermoon, and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’m in my T-shirt because I just got done with a shower, but I ran to my car with my camera and telephoto lens and drove clear across town to get a better view,” she said.
Her dash and drive was worth it. Frye captured a massive moon above an oil derrick in the rolling fields outside Lusk, rising into a hazy blanket of clouds.
“I’ve always been captivated by full moons, especially with the clouds,” she said.
Noted Wyoming photographer Dave Bell also got a cloudy photo of the supermoon as it rose over Sublette County
“It was really remarkable,” he said. “The sun was rising to my back, and the moon was setting over the mountains, which made for great color. There was a lot of pink in the sky.”
Samsung Cheats Where Apple Fails
Bell and Frye used their cameras to capture the supermoon. Neither would even consider trying that with their phones.
“I never take a picture of the moon with my phone,” she said. “It’s the lighting, and you can’t adjust the ISO on (your phone), and it doesn’t zoom out as much as you can with a camera or telephoto lens.”
Owners of newer Samsung phones might think they’ve acquired a knack for spectacular lunar photography. However, Gilbraith said there’s a secret new feature where the phone essentially edits the moon immediately after its photo is taken.
“Samsung uses AI technology to identify that you are taking a picture of the moon and uses a preexisting high-resolution picture and superimposes it (on your photo),” he said. “The camera knows you’re taking a picture of the moon and takes the image. If you went into raw portrait mode, it would be the same as an Apple, which uses the raw camera.”
Bell thinks the best scenario for a good iPhone moon photo is stability.
“Use something to brace the iPhone against, like the hood or windowsill on your car, or hold it on a tripod. When you do your 2x or 3x zoom, you’re shooting on something solid rather than holding it in mid-air,” he said.
The good news is anyone can see the supermoon with their own eyes. Gilbraith said there are times in the night when the moon will appear bigger or clearer, but it’ll be full and visible as long as it's dark.
“The moon appears larger when it’s close to the horizon, so sunrise and sunset will give you cool shots,” he said. “It’s clearer when it’s high up in the sky, so if you want clarity for the moon, you’ll want to wait until midnight. But a full moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, so you have all night to see it.”