Spectacular 'Supermoon' Wows Skywatchers

For many sky gazers around the world, this weekend's "supermoon" did not disappoint.

THE GIST

The biggest full moon of the year peaked late Saturday.

The moon shone 30 percent brighter because it was passing close by Earth.

The biggest full moon of the year, a so-called "supermoon," rose into the night sky Saturday to the delight of skywatchers around the world, who captured the lunar sight in dazzling amateur astronomy photos.

Because of a fluke of orbital timing, the full moon of May peaked late Saturday just as the moon was passing its perigee, the closest point to Earth of its orbit. The result was the biggest full moon of the year, which NASA and other scientists nicknamed the supermoon of 2012.

In Amman, Jordan, the bright moon amazed skywatcher Carra Almond of Canton, N.C., who is currently living in Jordan with her husband. Almond said the moon was a captivating sight from her apartment balcony. Her photo shows a crystal clear moon shining bright against a black night sky. [Supermoon 2012 Photos from Around the World]

"I have taken several photos of the moon but have never taken one that turned out this good, and I had no idea the camera would zoom this far," Almond told SPACE.com in an email. "I was so amazed by the results when I loaded it up on the computer."

Biggest full moon of 2012

The supermoon hit its peak at 11:34 p.m. EDT (0334 GMT), when the moon reached its perigee and was about 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from Earth at the time. One minute later, the full moon of May hit its peak, offering a dazzling lunar show for skywatchers with clear weather.

NASA officials predicted that the moon would appear up to 14 percent bigger than other full moons of 2012, and could shine 30 percent brighter because of the close pass. It was also expected to outshine much of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, a "shooting star" display created each year when the Earth passes through a stream of dust from the famed Halley's comet.

The last time a supermoon occurred was on March 19, 2011, when the moon was about 248 miles (400 km) closer to Earth than it was on Saturday night. On average, the Earth-moon distance is about 230,000 miles (384,400 km). [Supermoon Full Moons Explained (Infographic)]