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Pink supermoon, the largest this year, graces NZ skies tonight

The closest full moon of the year, a pink supermoon, will be visible in the sky above New Zealand tonight.

Supermoon rising in Otago Peninsula on April 27. Source: Ian Griffin/Otago Museum.

“A supermoon occurs when a full moon coincides with the Moon being near a point within its orbit known as perigee. Perigee is the closest point that the Moon comes to Earth within its orbit,” Josh Kirkley, astronomy educator at Auckland’s Stardome Observatory told 1 NEWS.

The moon reached its closest point to New Zealand at about 3.30pm today according to astronomer and director of Otago Museum, Ian Griffin. The moon became visible firstly in the eastern parts of the country at about 5.30pm.

"There is always a lot of fuss about supermoons," Griffin says, "but in fact it only varies in size by 14 per cent over the course of the year.

"At its closest point (3:30pm) the moon will be 357,615 km away," Griffin told 1 NEWS, saying that when a full moon has come within 90 per cent of its closest approach to Earth, the term "supermoon" is used.

Griffin said the moon will appear "nice and pink" as it rises due to the fact that it passes through "lots" of atmospheres.

"When the moon is low in the sky it's passing through the thickest part of the Earth's atmosphere," he says.

Griffin explains that the spectacular part of a rising supermoon is the "moon illusion" - where the moon looks larger than it really is against the backdrop of "things like trees and buildings".

He says in fact, the moon is still the same size but the effect of the rising moon is "pretty special".

Kirkley agrees. 

“Full moons are brilliantly bright, and it is best to see the full moon when it rises in the east as it has a beautiful red hue to it due to light in the atmosphere. For anyone wanting to see this, you’ll need a clear sky with an unobstructed view of the east just after sunset," he says. 

"The moon will remain in the sky for the entire night, but it is most spectacular at moonrise,” Kirkley says. 

Last year, while the country was in lockdown, there were two supermoons in March and April.

The next full supermoons are due to appear on May 26, when the distance between Earth and the moon will be 357,462 km and on June 24, when the distance will be 361,558 km, according to website, earthsky.org.