Supermoon. Image by Gladson Machado, May 6, 2012

A project I am working on requires some research about the moon and its effect on Earth. The moon fascinates me because of the variety of things to follow: physics, geology and superstition. Each subject on its own makes interesting reading, but mix them together? The possibilities for stories multiply!

My current passion has to do with supermoons. A supermoon occurs when the moon in in perigee (closest point to Earth in moon’s orbit) and full. If a full moon is not also in perigee it is not a supermoon. A supermoon will appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter. The size difference may not be so noticeable, but the difference in brightness is.

The occurrence of natural disasters is linked to the appearance of the supermoon but no hard science has been found to back up these claims. Of course, perigee and full moons affect the tides and the combination of the two events do even more so, but the changes in the water level is not considered numerically significant world wide. There have been claims that link supermoons to the Tohoku Earthquake last year and the 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Science doesn’t really support the claims. I find it fascinating that people will jiggle their guidelines for cause and effect to fit the two events together. But yea or nay, I’m still enjoying the reading.

I happened on this article about supermoons.

Think bad things don’t happen during a full moon? Consider the quote below.

As TIME’s Michael D. Lemonick reported earlier this year, two physicists found that the combination of the moon’s perigee with Earth’s closest approach to the sun on Jan. 3, 1912, could have been responsible for the Titanic’s sinking that April. The combined gravity of this positioning led to a cycle of unusually high and low tides, Lemonick explained. In fact, the tides were higher than they’d been in hundreds of years, helping set free icebergs that were usually grounded and send them on a collision course toward the ill-fated ocean liner.

That full moon may not have sunk the Titanic per se, but if, as with many things on the earth, small changes can trigger bigger events maybe there is a link. Given the long odds and confluence of all these things; the astrological events, the high tides, the path of an iceberg through a vast ocean, human error, happening to sink a ship, it can be hard to ignore the idea of fate. With our human compulsion to seek, and sometime impose, order on random events, no wonder we have so many superstitions about the full moon.

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