Just How Super Is Tonight's Supermoon?

Astronomer Philip Plait tells host weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz the Supermoon you've been hearing all about actually isn't that super.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Tonight, the super moon. Maybe you've heard about this.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS: This weekend, the full moon will be closer to Earth than at any other time this year. Astronomers have a name for it: super moon.

RAZ: The moon will be 15,000 miles closer, 30 percent brighter. I had to know more, so I called up Philip Plait.

PHILIP PLAIT: I'm an astronomer and blogger for Discover magazine, and I live in Boulder, Colorado.

RAZ: Oh, OK. So, Phil, this happens only once, like, every thousand years, right?

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PLAIT: No. It's actually pretty common. It happened last year.

RAZ: Oh.

PLAIT: In fact, it happened last month in April. It was not really any farther than it is this weekend. It's only going to be about a thousand miles closer. So, really, if this were such a big deal, why weren't people talking about it last month? And the fact that you didn't see emails and tweets and Facebook and all that stuff lighting up about this shows that this is just basically hype.

RAZ: So why did I even call you?

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PLAIT: Well, look, I don't want to stop people from going out looking up at the sky. It will be bigger, will be brighter. You're probably not going to notice. But...

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PLAIT: ...it's still the moon. It's gorgeous. It's the Earth's natural satellite. It's profoundly impacted the evolution of life on this planet for a billion years. That's probably enough reason to go out and look at it. You don't have to go out because of sort of this overblown hype.

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RAZ: And you're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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