Look! Up in the sky! It’s Supermoon! (video)

NEW YORK — The biggest and brightest full moon of the year arrives tonight as our celestial neighbor passes closer to Earth than usual.

But don’t expect any “must-have-been-a-full-moon” spike in crime or crazy behavior. That’s just folklore.

Today’s event is a “supermoon,” the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. At 11:34 p.m., the moon will be about 221,802 miles from Earth. That’s about 15,300 miles closer than average.

That proximity will make the moon appear about 14 percent bigger than it would if the moon were at its farthest distance, said Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The difference in appearance is so small that “you’d be very hard-pressed to detect that with the unaided eye,” he said.

The moon’s distance from Earth varies because it follows an elliptical orbit rather than a circular one.

Like any full moon, the supermoon will look bigger when it’s on or near the horizon rather than higher in the sky, thanks to an optical illusion, Chester noted. The full moon appears on the horizon at sunset.

The supermoon will bring unusually high tides because of its closeness and its alignment with the sun and Earth, but the effect will be modest, Chester said.

The last supermoon, on March 19, 2011, was about 240 miles closer than this year’s will be. Next year’s will be a bit farther away than this year’s.

But no matter how far away a full moon is, it’s not going to make people kill themselves or others, commit other crimes, get admitted to a psychiatric hospital or do anything else that popular belief suggests, a psychologist says.

Studies that have tried to document such connections have found “pretty much a big mound of nothing, as far as I can tell,” said Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University.

Lilienfeld, an author of “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology,” said the notion of full moons causing bizarre behavior ranks among the top 10 myths because “it’s so widely held and it’s held with such conviction.”

Why do people cling to the idea?

Lilienfeld said a key reason could be the way people pay attention to things. If something unusual happens to occur during a full moon, people who believe the myth take note and remember, even telling other people because it confirms their ideas. But when another full moon appears and nothing out of the ordinary occurs, “they’re not very likely to remember” or point it out to others.

So in the end, he said, all they remember are the coincidences.

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has appealed for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-runs in the state.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Police seek suspect in Wells Fargo bank robbery

He was described as white, in his 30s, heavyset, with blonde hair and a maroon sweatshirt.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Most Read