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Witnessing a sunset and supermoon

A group of hikers on Sunflower Hill waiting for the supermoon to appear over the Rockies.

A group of 17 hardy adventurers braved cold weather and impending darkness Dec. 3 to hike up Sunflower Hill in the nature park and become witnesses to the sunset and rise of a bigger and brighter full moon than usual – a so-called supermoon.

After leaving the Kimberley Riverside Campground on St. Mary Lake Rd about 4 pm, the group stopped several times on the Sunflower Hill trail to view and take pictures of the setting sun. Reaching the top about an hour before moonrise, the group made their way to a plateau at the east end of the hill where they set up cameras and a tripod and began taking pictures in the expected direction of moonrise across the valley near Teepee Mountain.

Unfortunately, a partial bank of clouds just above the Rocky Mountains delayed the view of the rising moon, making the wait longer and colder. Numerous partial moon pictures were taken, but after a reasonable time the group decided to abandon the quest of seeing the entire moon. Everyone then carefully made their way back to the campground parking lot, where a few people stayed behind to see the appearance of a very bright International Space Station, visible due to reflected sunlight, at 6:25 pm. The space station appeared on the western horizon and travelled east toward the supermoon rising over the Rockies. Unfortunately, it faded before it got there as it entered the earth's shadow, but not before impressing the few remaining hikers with its brightness in the night sky.

Although on this hike the best views of the bright, crystal-clear full moon were had by people driving home on the St. Mary Lake road, everyone who was dressed warm enough had a good time. It was generally agreed that the outing had been worthwhile.

For more information on future supermoons visit

A supermoon occurs when the full moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, making it look extra close and extra bright — up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its furthest point from Earth. The next two supermoons will be on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018, and the Jan. 31 supermoon will also coincide with a lunar eclipse.

Paul Paronetto would like to thank Lou Bedard and Paul Holden for their assistance in guiding this hike. If possible and the weather co-operates, he may volunteer to do another sunset and supermoon hike in the new year. Stay tuned for details.



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