What is a Super Moon

The term super moon was coined by Richard Nolle in a 1979 article to Dell Publishing Company’s Horoscope magazine. He is a certified astrologer who feels his term has been misused over the decades.

In a 2011 article, he defines the new or full moon as occurring when the sun, moon and Earth are in alignment with Earth in the middle. Occasionally, between two and six times, a year this phase happens during the period when the moon is also closest to the Earth in its orbit. This is what is defined as a super moon.

The full moon alignment is called a syzygy.  When the moon is closest to the Earth it is called a perigee. The combination of the two is perigee-syzygy.

According to Mr. Nolle the super moon has been associated with geological events on planet Earth for hundreds of years. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and powerful storms often fall within a three day window on either side of the actual super moon alignment.

As Mr. Nolle explains that there have been many natural disasters associated with super moons.  Hurricane Katrina (2005), the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo (1991) and the horrific 7.3 earthquake (1948) which struck Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and claimed 110,000 lives all took place within the super moon window.  He does say that disasters do not always take place within these time periods; only that the likelihood increases.

Mr. Nolle’s interest in the super moon was sparked by reading “Strategic Role Of Perigean Spring Tides” by Fergus Wood. When Mr. Nolle researched the phenomenon, he became convinced the super moon’s effect on our planet far exceeded merely influencing the tidal forces.

The old astrologers defined the sublunary world as the atmosphere, crust and oceans on the planet, Hipparchus in the second century, was aware that the moon drew closer to the Earth at certain times and Ptolemy (a few hundred years later) recognized the syzygy alignment. The combination of the two concepts equate to the modern interpretation of the super moon.

Astronomers are quick to point out that the term super moon is an astrology one and fairly generous in its definition. Bruce McClure stated in a recent post that those in astronomy didn’t recognize the term until a few years ago when it began to come into popular use.

Perigee full moon was one scientific term for the super moon and admittedly less catchy than Mr. Nolle’s phrase.  John Vidale, a seismologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, explains that while there is an additional strain on the Earth during a perigee alignment, it’s not enough to break our planet. However, there is a small increase in tectonic activity.

Regardless of what term is used, a large, bright moon is beautiful to behold. It’s a trick of the eye, but the moon always appears larger when coming up over the horizon. Super moon nights are a good time to cuddle with a loved one, show the wonders of the night sky to your children, or howl for all you’re worth if you happen to be a werewolf.