Interviewer: Well the full moon on August 10th isn't like other full moons we've seen this year. This is a "supermoon," and here to tell us more about it is NASA scientist Dr. Noah Petro. Thank you for joining us, Noah.
Noah: Well thank you for having me.
Interviewer: So what is a "supermoon" and what makes this full moon special?
Noah: So the supermoon is the closest largest full moon of the calendar year. It's a real treat to see the Moon in a unique way. Because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is not a perfect circle, it gets farther away of the course of the year, when it's farthest away it's known as "apogee," and when it's closest it's known as "perigee," so over the weekend we're going to have a perigee full moon, the closest full moon of the year. Because it's close, it's going to appear about 14% larger, about 30% brighter than the smallest full moon of the year. So ti's going to be larger and brighter than your average full moon. So it should be a really great show.
Interviewer: When is the best time to view the supermoon, and will it look different from other full moons?
Noah: The best time to see the supermoon is any time at night, go out and look at the sky. The supermoon will be up after sunset. Watch it when it rises to the east, and you should have a great view of a beautiful full moon in the sky.
Interviewer: NASA has had a spacecraft orbiting the Moon for five years called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. What are some of the cool things we're learning from this mission?
Noah: Yes, so LRO has been at the Moon for five years, and in that time we've completely re-written our understanding of the lunar surface. We have produced the highest resolution of topographic map of any planetary body in the solar system, including the Earth, we've had higher resolution images and data products to tell us about impact craters change the surface. And we get these wonderful vistas, these wonderful views of the lunar surface including the beautiful central peak of the Tycho Crater and that beautiful boulder perched on top.
Narrator: What has the origin of the Moon taught us about our solar system?
Noah: One of the things that we've learned about the early history of the Moon and it's early development is that it was a very violent time. There were lots of large impact craters forming very rapidly in the earliest history of the Moon about 4 and a half billion years ago. Because the Moon is so close to the Earth, we know that those same events must have been happening also on the Earth. So we're learning about the early history of all planetary bodies in the solar system by studying the earliest history of the Moon. It's a really wonderful opportunity to learn about fundamental processes across the solar system.
Interviewer: Well it's been 45 years since NASA put a man on the Moon. So what have learned about our closest neighbor since then?
Noah: Well the wonderful thing in the 45 years since the Apollo missions to the Moon is that we have these awesome rocks that the astronauts brought back. And now combined with the data from LRO, we can put those rocks, those samples into context of the entire Moon. So for instance, the samples that the astronauts brought back tell us that there are some volatiles inside the Moon. Of course the wonderful high-resolution images of the LROC camera on LRO show us where the astronauts actually walked, so we can put those samples they brought back into a context of the landing site, places they went, and of course look at the beautiful places that they explored 45 years ago.
Interviewer: Sounds great, where can we go to learn more?
Noah: Well the best place to start to learn more about the Moon and the LRO mission is NASA.gov/LRO and from there you can learn about each of the instruments, join us on social media, and learn more about this wonderful mission.
Interviewer: Dr. Noah Petro, thank you very much!
Noah: Well thank you for having me.