Sunday, June 23, 2013

Super Moon

So summer is here and it's officially time to party. It seems like this general euphoria doesn't just pertain to the jolly blue planet we call home. Earth's one natural satellite seems to be getting into the act. The moon has once again gone super and is wowing crowds everywhere, drunken and sober.

What is a Super Moon Anyway?

The super moon, or perigee moon as it's known scientific circles, happens when a full moon lines up with the earth and the sun at a point called lunar perigee. When this occurs, the moon is at its closet point to Earth, approximately 225,623 miles (363,104 km) away. At this range, the moon appears up to 14 percent bigger and around 30 percent brighter than normal. Although another super moon will occur later in the summer, this occurrence will be the largest of the year. The moon won't be this close to Earth until August of 2014.

Popular Myths about Super Moons

So why do people go ga-ga over the super moon anyway? Aside from its impressive appearance, it seems that many natural disasters are thought to occur during this event. One of the most common beliefs is that super moons trigger earthquakes. In fact, they have been blamed both for the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the coast of nations along the Indian Ocean, as well as the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. With the moon being so close to the earth, its gravitational pull on our planet is increased, thus the chance of it wrecking havoc. Don't run for the hills just yet. Even though it's true that the moon is closer during this period, it's only slightly closer, hence the increase of the gravitational pull; it is not strong enough to shake Earth to its core. To date, seismologists have not found any evidence that super moons increase seismic activity on the planet.

With all the talk about celestial wonders and the like, one would think that astronomers would be at the bar hogging all the draft dispensers. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Astronomers and planetary scientists can barely let a yawn escape at the phenomenon. Many astronomers don't like the lunar perigee because it makes it harder to see other objects in the night sky.

Another misconception about super moons is that they cause floods. True, when in lunar perigee, the moon does cause a slightly higher gravitational pull on the oceans. Just in the case of earthquakes, the pull is not strong enough to deluge coastal regions. The increase in tides measures only a few centimeters higher, thus there is no chance of any real damage done by flooding.

Another popular belief about super moons is that they cause more lunatics to act, well loony. Insanity and bizarre behavior have oftentimes been blamed on the lunar cycle, with the frenzy hitting its peak during a full moon. With the full moon being so much closer and seeming so much more ominous in the sky, this theory can only make sense, right? Wait a second before you cram those pills down Aunt Annie's throat. A study done in 1985 failed to find any link to mental illness and the phases of the moon. So, despite popular belief, full moons do not drive people insane or cause an escalation in bizarre behavior.
Let The Party Begin

So later on tonight, set your watches and break out those telescopes, DSLR cameras, and binoculars. The moon is set to turn full at 7:32 a.m. EDT. It will reach its closest point to the planet around 22 minutes before then and will be fully visible shortly after sunset. To get some really spectacular views of the moon, view it right at moonrise or moonset when it's right on the horizon. Just don't stay up too late throwing back too many of those Super-Moon cocktails. The work week will still be in full swing come Monday morning.