By Amy Graff, SFGATE
You’ll want to step outside Tuesday night and look up.
The biggest, brightest moon of 2020 will light up the sky and the weather forecast calls for clear conditions perfect for viewing.
Maybe you’ll even be inspired to howl.
The so-called “supermoon” occurs when the moon is close to what we call “perigee” in scientific terms, the point when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit.
“Tonight, we will have the third supermoon of 2020,” said Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland. “And it will be the closest of the three. The Moon’s orbit is an ellipse, and as it travels around the Earth its distance varies by roughly 30,000 miles. So tonight at 7:35 p.m. Pacific time, the full Moon will be closest, appearing 14% larger that when it is farthest.”
Tonight will mark the first full moon of spring, which is sometimes called the Pink Moon or the Sprouting Grass Moon. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring.
Full moons are known for triggering animals such as coyote to howl. During these unusual times of the coronavirus, a lot of humans in the Northern California town of Mill Valley have also been howling from their front porches nightly at 7 p.m. in a quirky act to express gratitude for the nurses and doctors on the front lines of the pandemic.
“The Mill Valley Howl” as it’s known was started by Hugh Kuhn with a post on NextDoor and he said in the days leading up to tonight’s big moon, he has heard some coyote activity rivaling the nightly cry from locals in recent weeks. “Last night around 11 p.m. they were LOUD,” Kuhn wrote in an email.
He imagines Mill Valley folks will make a solid showing tonight amid the astronomical event, but he thinks nothing will compare to the howl that will come after the coronavirus crisis is over.
“In the end I believe our town’s loudest and most engaged howl – and general outward thanksgiving and celebration of community – will occur on the final night of shelter-in-place whenever that arrives,” he said.
Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.