Supermoon, 14 November 2016

Just a short post about the Supermoon of 14 November, widely publicised by the media the last few weeks as a not to be missed, once in a lifetime event. For example on Facebook

It’s a hype.

Supermoons are not rare, they occur regularly, on average every 14 months. The last one was 28 September 2015, the next one will be 4 December 2017.

Full moons have different sizes because the orbit of the moon is slightly elliptical. The image shows the moon orbit, exaggerated. The average distance to Earth is 385.000 km, but the moon can come as close as 356.500 km (perigee) and as far as 406.700 km (apogee). The moon orbit also rotates itself with a period of 8.85 year


As a result of these two effects, a full moon can sometimes occur when the moon is in or near its perigee. An observer on Earth will then see this full moon brighter and larger, than when it occurs in its apogee. Dividing the apogee distance by the perigee distance, we find 406.700 / 356.500 = ~ 1.14, so the moon will look ~14 % brighter and ~ 30 % larger. This effect is easily observable, as you can see in the image below.  By the way, the name Supermoon has been introduced by astrologers, the correct name is Perigee Full Moon.


So, why this sudden interest in this particular Perigee Full Moon of 14 November?

The values given for apogee and perigee are actually averages. Because of the influence of sun and planets they vary slightly in time. Here are the perigee distances during the Supermoons of 2015 and 2016 :

  • 356.876 km in 2015
  • 356.511 km in 2016

The perigee distance on 14 November is a little bit smaller! To be precise , 365 km smaller, ~0.1%. So the Supermoon of 14 November will be 0.1% brighter and 0.2% larger. Observable for the unaided eye? Not at all, believe me…:-)!

Why the hype?  When you look at the Perigee Full Moons in the past and future, you  have to go back to 1948 to find an even smaller full moon perigee: 356.462 km (49 km smaller).  And from now on you have to wait until 2034 to find a smaller one: 356.447 km (64 km smaller). These Supermoons will be ~0.02 % brighter.

That’s why it is said: the brightest Supermoon in 86 year…:-). Technically correct, but….   a hype.

My suggestion, try to observe the moon tomorrow, when it is rising, just after sunset. The moon looks always larger when close to the horizon! This is an optical illusion, the Moon Illusion. Combined with the Perigee Full Moon it will be beautiful

And when you are not free tomorrow, it is not that critical. One or two days later you can still admire the Supermoon.

Oysters and Mussels, October 2016

Originally Aric and I had planned to visit the Netherlands in August, to attend the Mussel day in Yerseke (August 20), but for various reasons we had to postpone our visit one month. Both of us love seafood and one of the first meals I prepared after our arrival in Amsterdam was a delicious mussel dinner.


But Yerseke is also famous for its oysters and the oyster season starts in October!

At the end of Aric’s stay we rented a car and made a two-day trip to Zeeland, the most Western province of the Netherlands, where Yerseke is located.

It was a trip full of variety with historical towns, the Delta Works and of course oysters and mussels 🙂

Our first stop was in Halsteren to visit the Moses bridge! The Moses bridge? I had never heard about it until Aric discovered an interesting website Atlas Obscura with unusual/unknown tourist attractions all over the world. When you search for the Netherlands, you will find the Moses Bridge as one of them. Here it is.


The bridge spans the moat of a 17th century entrenchment Fort de Roovere near Halsteren. It is partially submerged in the water of the moat, giving the impression that you “split” the waters when crossing, like when Moses crossed the Red Sea  😉  Here are a few more pictures

After visiting this bridge we continued to Yerseke, where we arrived in time for lunch. Yerseke is a small village in Zeeland, heavily damaged during WWII, only interesrting because of the oysters and the mussels. We had our lunch in the Oesterij where the oysters, after being harvested are kept in oysterbeds for cleaning, before being marketed. You can buy them in the shop, or taste them in the tasting room.

We started with a combination platter of three different oyster species. With a glass of wine 9.50 Euro, they are even here not really cheap.  It’s an acquired taste, for us it was heavenly bliss. Next we tasted the baked oysters, nice, but we prefer the real oyster taste, so we finished our lunch with more raw oysters.

I had booked a hotel in Middelburg, we  still had time to spend and decided to visit the historical town of Veere. In 1541 Veere became a staple town for Scottisch wool and prospered. Later it was a fishing town, now it is mostly tourism. A small town, easy to walk around. Peaceful atmosphere.

Veere has a beautiful 15th century town hall and an interesting church, also dating back to the 15th century, but never finished, so there is only part of a tower!


Here are a few more pictures.

End of the afternoon we reached Middelburg. In June 2015 I visited this beautiful capital of the Zeeland province and wrote a blog about it. Our hotel was located in the historic part of the town and consisted of only a few rooms, located above a cafe, that was actually closed on the day we arrived. But there was a note on the door, asking us to call a mobile number, so the owner expected us…:-)  More Airbnb style, but it worked well. Here our hotel and room.


It was a beautiful evening, we walked around a bit, also looking for a restaurant. That was not easy, Middelburg is quite a provincial town. Finally we found a Greek(!) restaurant, that was open. Very pleasant service, a glass of ouzo before we even ordered our food. A big starter and an even bigger main course. We had a nice conversation with Martha, the Greek owner of the restaurant. Resulting in a picture..:-)!

The next morning we took a few more pictures, of the Kloveniersdoelen (1607) and the Sijsmolen (1728



On our way back to Amsterdam, I wanted to have a look at the Storm Surge Barrier. In 1953 a high tide combined with severe storms caused breaking of dykes and flooding in Zeeland, resulting in almost 2000 casualties: the Watersnoodramp. I was eight years old at that time and still remember how frustrated I was that I could not go to Zeeland to help closing the dykes…:-).

The Delta Plan was meant to protect the Zeeland province and one of the most ambitious parts was the storm surge barrier, which could be closed in case of emergency. The dam was completed in 1986, each sluice-gate is tested regularly, the whole barrier has been closed 25 times until now, when the water level was more than three meter above normal.

On our way to this barrier, we first visited the small village of West Kapelle, to see the unusual lighthouse: a former church tower. When we walked around, we noticed an unusual civilian war cemetery. A British(!) tourist explained to us what had happened. In 1944 the port of Antwerp had fallen into the hands of the Allied forces, but to gain access to this important port, the German defenses in Zeeland had to be destroyed. Therefore the dyke near West Kapelle was bombed, flooding the village. Hundreds of people had taken shelter in a mill and drowned. Note the many graves of young children.





To build the storm surge barrier, an artificial island was constructed: Neeltje Jans Now it has become an (expensive) fun park, which we skipped. But on the island there is a well known restaurant, specialising in oysters and mussels. A delicious ending of an interesting 2D1N trip.