That’s No Super Moon
The planets were finally in alignment for a genuine space phenomenon; the only people forecasting impending disaster were those least qualified to predict it. With all of the attention in the media outlets to the presaged Super Moon, astronomers and science bloggers turned from reporting on noteworthy curiosities in their respective fields to debunking fantastical claims about the imminent meteorological ruin. As with most hyperbole, the Super Moon sensation began with an interesting occurrence that quickly inspired the worst of “What if?” games. Instead of staying in the imagination, unfortunately, this thought experiment continued to spread information without letting pesky things like facts get in the way. Well, it’s never too late to start all over again. Here we’ll start with the facts.
The moon is in an elliptical orbit; and therefore, every month experiences cycles through periods of being closer (perigee) and further away (apogee).
On March 19th the moon reached a slightly (1.6%) closer perigee than it had been in about 20 years; not 200, not 2000, just 20. That’s right; it was 1992 when the last so-called Super Moon occurred and it will happen a little less than 20 years from now.
The full moon does make the tides slightly larger. Coupled with the closer perigee, the tides raise a little more than the usual monthly spring tide, but not by a significant amount.
The Japanese Earthquake and following tsunami were in NO WAY connected to this phenomenon.
i. First, the supposed occurrences of the “Super Moon” have been studied at length and it has been well established that the distance and proximity of the moon have no effect on the earth’s plate tectonics.
ii. Second, the earthquake and tsunami occurred days before the moon’s perigee and therefore, optimal gravitational pull on the earth. There were no abnormal gravitational fluctuations or pulls on the earth by the moon or any other proximal celestial body when the Japanese earthquake occurred.
The only media outlets who gave credence to the idea that the moon being so slightly closer were some Astrology websites and people promoting unfounded, unresearched pseudo-science claims.
Now that the moon’s perigee has come and passed, it is clear that no natural disasters resulted from the minor increase in it’s proximity to the earth. The astrological outlets that promoted disaster theories have gone suspiciously silent. It is, perhaps, worth a trip around the internet to revisit many of the comments left behind by the vocal panicked few in order to remind ourselves how easily people were worked into a frenzied state over something the moon does every single month, however. In conclusion, it is worth observing, and possibly concerning, that a great number of news outlets, as well as, normally reasonable people were quite easily manipulated into a questionable state over a mere factoid:
“Incidentally, as a note of interest: the moon happens to be 1.6% closer on its perigee this month. This also coincides with a full moon, which hasn’t happened in 18 years. It should be a lovely site if you have clear skies above.”
– Platt, Phil. “Kryptonite for the Supermoon | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine.” Discover Blogs | Discover Magazine | Bad Astronomer. Discover Magazine, 18 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/18/kryptonite-for-the-supermoon/>.
– Platt, Phil. “No, the “supermoon” Didn’t Cause the Japanese Earthquake | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine.” Discover Blogs | Discover Magazine | Bad Astronomer. Discover Magazine, 11th Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/11/no-the-supermoon-didnt-cause-the-japanese-earthquake/>.
– Samehow, Jason. “Capital Weather Gang – The “SuperMoon” and the Japan Earthquake.” Blog Directory – The Washington Post. 11th Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2011/03/the_supermoon_and_the_japan_ea.html>.
– Nosowitz, Dan. “Biggest Full Moon in 19 Years Will Make Your Night Brighter, More Romantic Than Usual | Popular Science.” Popular Science | New Technology, Science News, The Future Now. Popular Science, 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-03/biggest-full-moon-20-years-almost-certainly-wont-cause-huge-natural-disaster>.