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“Supermoon” Or Superhype

March 18, 2011

There is a huge media-hype going around concerning the “supermoon” which is going to happen on March 19th, 7 PM UT, which is about 3 PM US Eastern time. So what is this supermoon and what is the hype about. As we all know, moon orbits around the earth in an elliptical orbit with one side of the orbit being closer to earth (perigee; 363,000 Km from earth) while the other being farther (apogee; 410,000 Km from earth). At it’s perigee, moon is closer to earth by about 50,000 km than the average distance at apogee. This distance fluctuates due to various reasons and influences and on March 19th, moon will be at a distance of 357,000 km from earth which is about 6,000 km closer than usual perigees which happens every month. At apogees, moon looks bigger and brighter, and tonight moon will appear to be about 14% bigger than usual and about 30% brighter, permitting weather conditions and your viewing location. Coinciding with the closest perigee is the full moon event which makes the event very rare. Last such full moon event occurred during March of 1983.

Many media outlets and individuals are linking this event as a reason for Japan’s earthquake. They are even predicting that many more natural disasters can happen due to moon’s increased effect of gravity on earth. All this is hoax and pseudoscience and moon has nothing to do with Japan’s earthquake nor this supermoon event (or perigee-Syzygy as it is scientifically called) is going to cause any serious natural disaster.

Just like any other perigee moon, which happens every month, tides will be higher. Perigee full moon will result in additional 3-5% gravity pull by moon resulting slighlty higher tides than usual. Due to lunar effect at perigee, tides are higher by few cms than usual. Geographical locations can amplify the effect to about 15 cms, but none of these is going to cause Tsunami, or floods or massive earthquakes. The supermoon event of March 1983 did not cause any havoc, but this doesn’t stop people like Richard Nolle from circulating wrong information and creating panic. He, by the way, is an astrologer with no scientifc background as such.

Moon does have an effect on earth, but not to the level of causing 9 level earthquake. If that was the case, we would be witnessing a massive earthquake or strom every month whenever the moon is at it’s perigee. If moon was the reason for Japan’s earthquake, why it happened on the date when moon was closer to apogee rather than perigee?? More than 1,000 earthquakes occur every year and moon revolves around the earth every month and we have been studying moon for ages; if there was any correlation between moon and major earthquakes, we would have deciphered it by now. So, let’s look at the full perigee moon tonight, possibly at the horizon with objects in foreground to get an awesome view, and not panic or spread panic.

Image credit: |AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella

Filed under: News,Science

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1 Comment Leave a Comment

  • 1. lammert de Jong  |  March 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Just walked Carmen, our dog, under the splendor of the supermoon. Great. Sciencde is beautiful.
    How are you doing? Lammert.

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