Kryptonite for the supermoon

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2011 12:01 pm

[NOTE (added March 19): It occurs to me that some people might see the Moon rising today and think it looks HUGE because it’s a "supermoon". However, it’s far more likely they’re falling victim to the famous Moon Illusion. You can read all about it here.]

If you believe the mainstream media, you might think this weekend’s "supermoon" will cause earthquakes, volcanoes, bad weather, halitosis, dust bunnies, and hangnails.

Guess what I think of this idea! Hint: check the name of my blog. Got it? Good.

In reality, this "supermoon" nonsense is, well, nonsense. I have some details below, but for those of you who are impatient (the tl;dr crowd) here are the bullet points:

  • Yes, the Moon is closer today than usual, but only by less than 2%.
  • This does happen around full Moon, which is when we get bigger tides, but that happens every single month. The Moon being closer amplifies that, but only a tiny little bit.
  • The Moon’s possible effect on earthquakes has been studied for a long time. The result? Major earthquakes are not correlated with the Moon’s position or distance.
  • Therefore,

  • Anyone claiming this "supermoon" can cause earthquakes or whatnot is, to be blunt, totally, completely, utterly, wrong.

Say.

OK, so, how about some details?

Brief overview

I went over a lot of this in my post showing the Moon had nothing to do with the Japanese earthquake. Briefly, the Moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse, so sometimes it’s closer than other times. On average, it’s most distant point (apogee) is about 405,000 km (251,000 miles) and at closest (perigee) it’s about 363,000 km (225,000 miles).

Those numbers change month to month due to the gravity of the Sun and other effects. As it happens, on March 19 at around 02:00 UT (early evening Friday March 18 for most of the US) 19:10 UT [D’oh! Cut and paste accident there, sorry; note this doesn’t affect my argument] the Moon reaches an unusually close perigee distance of a bit more than 357,000 km. Gravitationally, this doesn’t mean much. That extra 6000 km closer than on an average perigee is only about 1.6%, which is pretty trifling. It means the gravity of the Moon on the Earth is only 3% stronger.

The Moon also affects us through tides, which are similar to gravity. But the tides will only be 5% stronger than usual for a perigee due to the Moon’s proximity!

Now to be clear, this is happening at a time of the full Moon (which happens tomorrow, March 19, at 18:10 UT). That means the Sun, Earth, and Moon are roughly lined up in space, so the Sun and Moon’s tidal pulls add together. Every full Moon we get what are called spring tides, with extra high high tides, and extra low low tides. Places prone to flooding do see more on spring tides, every single month of the year. This extra 5% tug this weekend makes that a bit worse, but only a bit.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, panic?

Does this extra tweak have any other effect on the Earth? Could it cause quakes, volcanoes or anything else?

Nope. Again, go read my supermoon post from last week. Earthquakes and the Moon have been studied extensively. Mind you, the Moon orbits the Earth every month, and there are thousands of earthquakes every year, so any correlation between the two would scream out of the data. The best that’s seen is a weak connection between the Moon and shallow, low-magnitude earthquakes. Big earthquakes, like the the ones in Japan, Christchurch, or Chile in the past few months have clearly not been triggered by the Moon. In fact, the Japan quake happened when the Moon was closer to apogee than perigee! That right there is a bit of a showstopper for this "supermoon" idea.

So why do people keep talking about this?

We humans love to seek correlations, and will see them even when they aren’t there. That’s why astrologers are still in business, despite having no scientific evidence whatsoever that their predictions are any better than random guessing.

In fact, this "supermoon" idea was started by an astrologer named Richard Nolle. On his website, he defines the term as a new or full Moon when the Moon is closer to Earth than usual. He goes and gives a more precise definition, but it’s rather arbitrary*. He says quite bluntly — and quite incorrectly — that lots of seismic events (plus bad weather) can be attributed to the Moon.

For example, about this month’s Moon he says:

That makes this a major geophysical stress window, centered on the actual alignment date but in effect from the 16th through the 22nd.

Note that time period: seven full days. The lunar orbit is about 27 days long, so there’s a 25% random chance of something happening during that time, Moon or no Moon!

He goes on:

Of course you can expect the usual: a surge in extreme tides along the coasts, a rash of moderate-to-severe seismic activity (including Richter 5+ earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions), and most especially in this case a dramatic spike in powerful storms with heavy precipitation, damaging winds and extreme electrical activity.

Wait a sec: the USGS has records of earthquakes, and there are about 1469 earthquakes every year greater than magnitude 5. That’s 4 per day, so the odds of having at least one quake that size or greater during his "supermoon" period are virtually 100% — just as they would be if you picked any random one-week period. Heck, pick any random day of the year and there’s a near-certainty there will be a mag 5 quake somewhere.

Given that there are tens of thousands of thunderstorms every year, and basically continuous volcanic eruptions, suddenly his predictions seem a little less shiny. But this is typical of this kind of prediction. If you go to his site and read his claims, he picks out all the times there were big earthquakes or volcano eruptions during his "supermoon" periods, but doesn’t tell you how many happened the other 3/4 of the time. This is called cherry-picking and is a big no-no when making actual scientific claims.

But this sort of verbal slipperiness gets eaten up by the media. You can find tons of breathless news media (on the web, on TV, on the radio, everywhere) uncritically accepting these claims. Although most do consult with actual scientists who are clear this is all bunk, the writers tend to put that several paragraphs down where people are less likely to read it. [Note: as pointed out in the comments below, quite a few online news sites reported this non-event responsibly. As I replied to that commenter, I’m glad! Those articles were posted today, and I missed them as I posted my own, and was referring to things I had seen previously about this, as well as the abysmal reporting of other science claims (superstorms, the extra zodiac sign, Apophis, Betelgeuse exploding, a giant planet in the outer solar system and so on) that has been going on lately. For this specific "supermoon" reporting, I was using too broad a brush to paint the media.]

Conclusion

I think I’ve made my point. We go through a lunar perigee every month, and you don’t hear about ginormous effects. We go through new and full Moon each once per month, with the same lack of planetary distress. Putting them together barely nudges the gravitational needle. You might see a little more flooding in some low-lying areas, but that’s it.

Earthquakes? Nope.

Volcanoes? Nope.

Scary weather? Nope.

To be clear, we almost certainly will see earthquakes, volcanoes, and scary weather during this time… just as we do every single day of every single year!

So this "supermoon" is nonsense, pure and simple. Don’t buy it.

But I’ll add that the Moon will actually be a bit closer than usual, and while you might not notice the size or brightness difference by eye, the full Moon is always a lovely and compelling sight in the sky. So I urge everyone to go out and take a look. And while you’re looking think on this: a dozen men have walked on the Moon, dozens of probes have been sent there, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is still snapping away, mapping our friendly satellite and taking dazzling images of its surface.

That’s real, that’s tangible, and that’s what we humans can do when we stick with science.


* At the bottom of his supermoon page he explains his definition: take the difference between the Moon’s nearest and farthest distances (about 50,000 km), take 90% of that (about 45,000 km) and then subtract that from its farthest distance (406,000 km – 45,000 km = 361,000 km. Any time there is a new or full Moon when it’s less than that distance is a "supermoon". But why 90%? Why not 80, or 95? He never says. It’s almost as if he pulled that number out of thin air.

Comments (125)

  1. Jon

    Thank you for winning my arguments with stupid people for me.

  2. Scott G

    NASA also put out information about it with their recent ScienceCast (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1yalg_Apdw).

  3. Keith Bowden

    “Moon over Parma bring my love to me tonight…”

    Is it just me or is nuttiness (woo) in a peak period right now? Probably just me… :(

  4. DrBB

    Oh dear, you mean we have to have this comment thread all over again? I think the old one’s up to about 480 posts now.

    Probably this concept has already achieved zombie idea status–can’t be killed by kryptonite or anything else because its adherents Simply Aren’t Listening. But for anyone who actually wants a data ‘n’ statistical analysis thumbnail that pretty well demolishes it, head over to that other thread scroll down (wayyyyyyyyyyy down) to Jessiessica’s entry at 452.

    Really like that graphic, btw. Pretty much captures the silliness of the whole thing.

  5. Peptron

    So, if I understand what you said correctly… dust bunnies are caused by the rabbit on the moon that pounds mochi.

    No time to wait for a confirmation, I’ll alert the medias right away.

  6. Lupine

    You mean it’s not going to hit my eye like a big pizza-pie?

  7. “That means the Sun, Earth, and Moon are roughly lined up in space, so the Sun and Moon’s tidal pulls add together.”

    How so? Wouldn’t the Sun and Moon be pulling from opposite directions?

  8. So why do people keep talking about this?

    I must resist the urge to just outright say, “Because they are flaming idiots!” and instead focus on the new american virtue: anti-intellectualism

    This country thrives on the uneducated and ignorant getting time in the spotlight. Just look at jersey Shore.

    Actually, Jersey Shore brings me to another decline in US intelligence crackpot theory: Generally people watch reality shows with patheitc idiots in them to feel better about their own pathetic idiotness, but only if the pathetic idiots are MORE pathetic and idiotic than themselves. As we embrace being idiots more and more, reality shows must sink lower and lower in order to make pathetic idiots feel better about themselves… While crackpot, I think this theory may have some merit. Too bad sociology isn’t a real science. ;) :P

  9. Martha

    Its a good thing this supermoon does not happen on March 30th or 31st because that is when Mercury goes into retrograde. Actually it is currently in pre retrograde. Now with NASA having a probe in orbit around Mercury (without even asking Mercury’s permission I might add) things could get very dicey tomorrow. ; )

  10. melissa

    I agree with all you say, except man on the moon, I it was done then why not now? I just cant believe it. But very interesting read anyway, thank you :0)

  11. John

    Every time I see your logo at the top of the page, I think it is a guy in a space suit peeing. It is mostly due to the position of his hand.

  12. Nenne

    But o noes!! Its grabbing the earth! Or is it force shocking? There is a sith lord on the moon!

  13. Supermoons also prevent vampire attacks. As proof, I point to the fact that there hasn’t been a single recorded vampire attack in the U.S. during a supermoon.

    And guess what? I just looked under my bed, and there were a bunch of dust bunnies there! It must be true!

  14. I have to admit I am a bit disappointed! I was hoping the moon would be a bit bigger to the naked eye tonight! I was looking forward to an unusual visual treat for myself and the kids. However, a full moon is always beautiful, as you noted. Thank you for the information, as always! (o:

  15. Here’s NASA’s take ont he “Supermoon”

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/16mar_supermoon/

    Also helpful — but it does imply a significant size differential. Will that not be noticeable due to the lack of visual reference cues?

  16. X

    OK, but what’s the correlation of earthquakes with supermoons if there are 2 outs, runners in scoring position and a left-handed batter switch-hits against a starter with pitch-count over 100?

    @Firoz: The tidal effect is a differential pull, so it actually can’t distinguish between opposite directions. As long as things are in a straight line, their effects add up.

  17. Deep Thought

    I don’t think you have made your point that the “mainstream media” is perpetuating this myth as you have not cited a single “mainstream media” article purporting to ascribe to any doom scenarios. You need to cite sources, especially when the vast majority of mainstream sites ARE covering this lunar event appropriately. See for example:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/03/18/2011-03-18_supermoon_to_occur_on_saturday_nasa_scientists_insist_it_will_be_nothing_more_th.html
    http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/03/18/on-saturday-watch-out-for-surreal-supermoon/
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/03/super-moon-saturday-night-full-moon-nasa-/1
    http://www.boston.com/news/source/2011/03/largest_full_mo.html
    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_17644640?nclick_check=1
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110318-supermoon-earth-japan-earthquake-tsunami-science-space-biggest-full-moon/
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2011/03/the_supermoon_and_the_japan_ea.html

    Even the Daily Mail has a decent article, and you called them out in your last post.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1367474/Super-moon-spectacle-light-skies-tomorrow-night-theres-need-worry-lunacy.html

    I don’t understand why you want to malign the press for doing their jobs and doing it correctly. The source of these doomsday scenarios are internet rumors, NOT the “mainstream media.”

    Your opening sentence which blames wrong people is as irresponsible as the supposed sensationalist media straw men that you decry.

  18. The problem is really the fact that no matter how much logic is used on people. no matter how much history is utilized, and how much scientific information is included, people still want to believe what they want to believe, no matter how ridiculous it might be. Someone tells them that the Moon causes earthquakes, and immediately they believe it no matter how much someone tells them something else.

    That being said, we all know that the supermoon does coincide with alien invasions…I mean someone told me that once, so it’s got to be true, right?

  19. So, is a supermoon what you see when Superman can’t find a phone booth?

  20. blf

    It’s not a supermoon, it’s a superearth. It’s the Earth that will be a bit closer than usual to the Moon. This will cause lunarquakes, lunar volcanic eruptions, and the cheese to go rotten (which will really smell the old mare up!). Expect an invasion of angry little green men with clothespins on their noses.

  21. Chief

    I thank you for the information but in my 50 years this is the first I’ve heard about this supermoon thing. Guess you have to be tuned in (or tuned out) to the local doom callers and astrology fields. I base my life in the things that we can discover and follow up with facts and critical thinking so of course I don’t give beans to the alternate “science” presented in media. I really don’t understand why people have to invent things to follow to give comfort and drop the ball on things properly explained and presented without going to extremes. (or high blood pressure and empty wallets for that matter).

    As to a question on the apparent size of the moon in that it looks so much larger when near the horizon, I though it was due to the illusion of having the comparison of buildings and trees or whatever near or in front of same. (Although in horizon vs overhead, hold a quarter at arms length and the moon will be the same size in relation to the quarter).

  22. I think people just like to get scared. It gets the ol’ juices flowing, you know?
    We humans also are storytelling creatures, and we love to be the center of attention, so these fairy tales spread like wildfire.

  23. PG

    Chief @ 12: yep, it’s called Ponzi.

    First time poster, and I love the blog. _m/

  24. DrFlimmer

    @ Larian LeQuella

    Hm. I say you are right! Maybe it’s just my impression, but I think German TV gets worse every year (and probably other countries aren’t much better…). So, yeah, your theory sounds rather convincing. I’m all for it.

  25. Trebuchet

    Betcha this gets dredged up every March 19 from now on, like the “mars as large as the full moon” hysteria that reoccurs every August.

    Here in the cloudy northwest, of course, we won’t even see the moon.

  26. Brian

    I feel much lighter during this Supermoon. I feel faster, better, stronger and can leap tall buildings with a single bound.

  27. DrBB

    Speaking of tl;dr, has anyone visited that guy’s site? Like being instantly transported to the web circa 1998. White text on busy dark background to make your eyes hurt, a spinning gif thingy and a javascript scroll message in the window frame. I’d advise cut-pasting the copy into a text editor if you’re planning on trying to read it.

    Of course I can’t *prove* there’s a strong correlation between really cheesy looking websites and illogical, ill-informed writing but I’d say it’s a lot more promising than the one between supermoons and earthquakes.

  28. I noticed that the main site has been “optimized for 4X-8X Netscape Navigator/Communicator”. Does that even exist anywhere other than, perhaps, computers still trying to access GeoCities?

  29. Steven

    I get emails from family and friends about the annual Mars hoax and just about ever other sensationalist story out there on our solar system. No doubt, I’ve received some regarding the “ULTRA SUPER MOON” and I’m pleased to refer them to this post! :)

  30. lagomorph

    It’s interesting how wildly the time of perigee varies. NASA says it’s within an hour of the full moon (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/16mar_supermoon/) and points to the perigee calculator at fourmilab.ch. Phil has it much earlier than that. Stellarium has it about three hours later than Phil.

  31. BIgSoph

    Coming soon: The Ultra Double Super Plus Moon: For Today’s Ill Informed Superstitions

  32. Daniel J. Andrews

    Heck, pick any random day of the year and there’s a near-certainty there will be a mag 5 quake somewhere.

    Forty-four minutes ago there was a 5.0 quake near the coast of Japan, a 5.2 one 54 minutes ago….in fact, they’ve been having quite a few over 5.0 this past few days. I imagine it must seem like a recurring nightmare with the ground shaking on a daily basis.

    Don’t be so hard on astrologers. There must be something to it given they’ve accurately predicted many things like the Japanese quake and tsunami, the Haiti quake, the Indonesian tsunami, the economic meltdown, the Iraq invasion, 9/11, fall of the Berlin Wall, collapse of the USSR, and other nation and world-shaking events, including the Kennedy assassination, right? Right? siighhhhhh. /sarcasm. Wish they could–lots of people would like to know if a full nuclear meltdown will occur.

  33. Daniel J. Andrews

    Ken B (@13)–that’s because the lycans are out in full force so it isn’t safe for the vampires.

    Larian (@8)–Oooo, nice! You might be onto something there–this could be the next Dunning-Kruger type paper if you could devise a good test.

  34. T-storm

    So we agree? The moon does exist.

  35. Sawdust Sam

    Just looking at the full moon now through my window (22.30 GMT, UK), high and bright. It must be my imagination, but it does look bigger than usual – fantastic through binoculars. Even the amazing photos on this site don’t do it justice.
    All these years and I’ve never really looked before. Wonderful.

  36. Unscientific American

    @Deep Thought: Apparently, Mr. Plait is another “expert” who uses any opportunity to lord it over people or organizations or outlets he considers to be “unscientific” or “sensationalistic”. IMHO the supercilious attitudes these “experts” display reveals a deeply rooted insecurity, as with anyone who seeks to raise themselves up by belittling others. You made a great point by showing that the mainstream media has not in fact been spreading doomsday rumors, but don’t think for a moment it will make a difference in Ol’ Phil’s obviously more knowledgeable and superior mind. :-)

  37. Matt T

    @Firoz Jokhi (#5): The high and low tides are not toward the moon and away from the moon, but parallel and perpendicular to it, respectively. The moon’s gravitational pull is strongest nearer to it producing a high tide toward the moon. The moon’s influence diminishes further away, in part producing another high tide (almost) directly opposite. The low tides are perpendicular to the force and caused in part by a lack of direct gravitational force on them other than by the earth. That’s only part of the story, though. The earth’s rotation and of course, the sun also play a role in determining the water levels. So yes, the sun and moon would pull in opposite directions, producing HIGHER tides. I realize my explanation isn’t complete, but if you search “tides and moon” on Google images, there are some nice diagrams.

  38. I am now being asked by the newsroom about a prediction by Jim Berkland of a massive West Coast quake. Apparently due to hit next week.

    The prediction is based on dead fish in Mexico. (I thought you all would enjoy that part ;) )

  39. Michael Swanson

    I can only assume the supermoon is up to something nefarious, as it is surely causing the cloud cover over Portland that will hide its actions tonight.

  40. Maybe if everybody used a photo that shows the relative Earth/Moon distance, like this one:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Earth-Moon.png

    I find that viewing at full resolution and scrolling really drives home the co-remoteness.

  41. Thameron

    Say it’s only a super-moon…

    I look forward to a full moon looking almost as big as Mars! Cool!!

  42. Jeff

    Having taught earth science, astronomy, etc. for 30 years, I too am very tired of these MSM commentators like George Noory, making all events on earth and universe in the category of “news at 11″. Yes, all these things happen, but they are spread out over the vastness of space and time, but then, old George wouldn’t have a job if they occur rarely.

    People through history always fall for this bunk, it hasn’t changed because people haven’t changed, and even my students have bugged me over this stuff over and over and over again, time for retirement.

  43. For those asking about sources, I saw the “supermoon” touted as a cause of earthquakes on Neil Cavuto’s show (I know, Cavuto is about as far from reality as it gets on Fox, but it’s still MSM) as well as on a Fox News website (note the headline, despite having “both sides” in the article). The Daily Mail talked about the Supermoon causing the Japan quake a few days ago. Accuweather got this whole thing rolling.

    I’ll note, Deep Thought (17) the WashPo article you link to gives a lot of time to the ideas of Nolle and Parquette, and the writer gives it some credence.

    Some media have done well, as you pointed out, and I’m happy they did! I’ll note that a lot of those links you provide go to articles that went up today, and I didn’t see them before I posted my own. I went with what I was seeing at the time. I’ll note that I should’ve been more careful with my word use; I was also referring to the terrible media coverage of other science non-stories that has happened lately.

    I have updated this post to reflect this.

  44. Chief

    Don’t let on that after the moons formation, it was a LOT closer than today, rotated on its axis and orbited faster with the earth rotating faster as well. Can I screw the historical calculations on the moons recent effects by adding in this data as well. I wonder if he takes in account that the moon is slowly changing its distance due to tidal friction.

  45. Nick

    In Japan-earthquake-related-stupidity, I’ve come across something almost as bad, and it is from no less then the New York Times :

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/science/plume-graphic.html?ref=science

    This is a graph as to when detection stations will start picking up on the “radioactive” cloud from the reactor. But that wasn’t good enough, so they made a few changes :

    The scale is now logarithmic, and coloured. It runs Pink-Blue-Aqua-Yellow-Flesh-Pink-HotPink (why is the low value the same as the high value ?)

    Having done this nice graphic of pinkness stretching across the Pacific, they had to label it. Although there is many, many established methods of measuring radiation, the New York Times came up with a new one.

    “RELATIVE LEVELS OF RADIATION” (Arbitrary units)

  46. DrBB

    After watching the previous thread on this unfold, the Dylan lyrics keep coming to mind…

    And here I sit so patiently
    Waiting to find out what price
    You have to pay to get out of
    Going through all these things twice

    Actually when you look at the comments defending the supermoon idea it becomes quite clear that the issue is not belief in the concept. That really does very little to explain the degree of anger exhibited and doesn’t track very well with what they say–the fact that they virtually never offer any contradictory data or address the data that have been presented. The one overwhelming constant is that they’re PO’d at You So-Called Experts for making categorical sciencey pronouncements and being so arrogant as to think you know more than Regular Folks whose Idears Is Just as Good as Yer’s!

  47. Lester

    Fact.

    Closer moons cause boobquakes which cause earthquakes.

    Source: Iran

  48. JoW

    I went to WashPo article linked above and found that near the end of the article the author cites Phil as essentially demolishing the “SuperMoon” junk science and indicates he “found the piece extremely convincing and highly recommend reading it. Suffice to say, I’m not on the SuperMoon causing natural chaos bandwagon.” He also links to this blog entry.

    Good job Phil!

  49. MauiPancakes

    The quacks will be unstoppable if a Iceland blows up again.

  50. Newt

    Ok, It’s not the moon. Look at the Sun and Solar activity. Nasa has been warning about this for quite a while. Just like New Orleans, engineers told everyone that infrastructure was not adequate. Look at solar activity patterns. And please “google” can a solar flare stop your toilet from flushing.

  51. Joseph G

    @#8 Larian Lequella: The good news is, it looks like you’re on to something. The bad news is, it’s even worse then you think (and you already think it’s pretty bad).

  52. Thameron

    Obligatory:

    “That’s no moon.”

  53. Martha

    ANY earthquake, volcano or a disrupted meeting of the Wiccan Trekkie Chess Club will be seen as proof of the supermoon effect. If nothing major happens in the next 24, 48, 72 hour period then anything that happens between now and 2013 will be cited as proof that this form of woo woo is true.

  54. Jesus was an extraterrestrial.

  55. Messier Tidy Upper

    You know what this “supermoon” businesss reminds me of?

    The whole “Jupiter effect” nonsense :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jupiter_Effect

    Once promoted in a best selling book by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann back in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s. That piece of bad (gravitational FXT) astronomy turned out to be false and has now sunk into well-deserved obscurity, this will no doubt soon do the same. Which can’t happen quickly enough.

  56. Messier Tidy Upper

    @53. Thameron – Obligatory: “That’s no moon.”

    That’s a SUPER-Moon!!! ;-)

    “Its a bird! It’s a plane! No, its our planet’s large natural satellite a smidgin closer than usual at perigee thus a trifle brighter and larger in apparent terms!” ;-)

    Come to think of it, it *is* faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a bull elephant although tall buildings .. yeah it might have a problem with jumping those! ;-)

    *****

    PS. The “SuperMoon” got a positive mention on the Aussie TV news (ABC-TV) last night, no nonsense just : “.. its going to be a great night to go out and take a photo of the Full Moon as it will be a bit larger and brighter.” Sometimes, very occassionally, some media groups get things right. :-)

  57. Questioning

    While it is clear that a “supermoon” in and of itself doesn’t cause an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or weather patterns, what about it being the trigger for earthquakes or volcanic activity that was just about to go anyway?

    So lets say the tectonic plates are pushing against one another slowly building up pressure, to the point it is about to release and cause a large quake. Lets say the amount of air pressure is about say on average about 1050 millibars across the fault, but at 1020 millibars the quake will have enough force to overcome the downward air pressure, thereby releasing the energy and an earthquake occurs. The supermoon adding an additional 3% would be enough to overcome this equilibrium and the quake would occur.

    Now strictly speaking this is a fairly academic scenario, as everything would have to be “just right” so it would be highly improbable. Saying the moon caused the quake would be not correct, the plates pushing against each other caused it, but certainly the proverbial straw could be pointed at.

  58. John from Adelaide

    I think you’ve overstated your case and have done some “bad statistics” by interpreting sample results as “certainty” and claiming the moon has absolutely no effect on geological activity. We have a great deal of data on the topic, and we can say with very high confidence that the effect is quite close to zero on It’s just that the effect is likely to be quite small and therefore impossible to distinguish from zero given our current data.

    What is certain however, is that we should not be afraid of or making predictions based on a supermoon

  59. Stick to astronomy

    From the USGS website: “One study, for example, concludes that during times of higher earth and ocean tides, such as during times of full or new moon, earthquakes are more likely on shallow thrust faults near the edges of continents and in (underwater) subduction zones. Lunar or solar eclipses represent, of course, special cases of full and new moon, but do not cause any special or different tidal effects from full and new moon. Earth tides (Earth’s surface going up and down by a couple of centimeters) and especially ocean tides (surface of the ocean going up and down by a meter or more) raise and lower the confining pressure on shallow, dipping faults near continental edges and in subduction zones. When the confining pressure is lessened, the faults are unclamped and more likely to slip. The increased probability is a factor of ~3 during high tides. But you must stop are realize that the background probability is, in general, very low in a given place and year (fractions of a percent), so that raising this tiny probability by a factor of 3 during high tides still results in a very tiny probability.

    There have also been some small but significant correlations reported between the semi-diurnal tides and the rate of occurrence of aftershocks in some volcanic regions, such as Mammoth Lakes. (UC Berkeley) “

  60. Sean H.

    I heard that if I should balance my Chi and focus my Quigong or the Moon will continue to get closer until it crashes into the Earth on December 21, 2012, is that true? Also, the Moon will be in Virgo, I hope that doesn’t make me overly confident. Can you recommend a homeopathic remedy to aid in concentrations?

    Please do read that with sarcasm. I am waiting to hear something similar to that at work today.

  61. PayasYouStargaze

    BBC News had a sensible little bit this morning on the supermoon. They had an actual astronomer on. He pointed out that there isn’t going to be a very noticable difference but it would be a great night to watch the Moon. He spoke a bit about the big Moon illusion when it’s on the horizon, and suggested something as simple as a kitchen roll tube will show that it is an illusion. He then briefly explained that there’s no reason to expect any unsual effects on the Earth. Very sensible and good on the BBC!

  62. Roy Stone

    Just for fun I took the ten largest recorded earthquakes as listed at http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/the-10-biggest-earthquakes-in-recorded-history.htm and then compared the dates against the nearest full or new moon (when the tides would be greatest). Three of them occured within +/- 1 one day of a new or full moon. Two further quakes occured within +/- 2 days. I didn’t have the time of day for the quakes so I assumed the quakes happend at noon UTC so there might be a little error there.

  63. John J

    I’m just bored with all these scientists muscle flexing and posturing in public because they let their emotions get the better of them when responding to someone speaking against the trend.

    Any true scientist knows a good proportion of today’s scientific ‘facts’ will be overturned in the future when new discoveries prove them wrong. They make discoveries by keeping an open mind to all possibilities, so are careful to only talk about today’s thoughts as theories based on what we currently know.

    These moon theories tug at people’s emotions. When these scientists also respond emotionally, they turn it into an ‘us vs. them’ match, and all the detached, neutral scientific perspective science relies on flies out the window. The result is they make science look just as religious as the non-science.

  64. DrBB

    This whole debunking the Supermoon thing goes back to astronomers’ well known and longstanding dislike of the full moon because it lights up the sky and spoils the viewing. Heck, it’s the worst time of even for viewing the moon, innit? Details all washed out, no shadows for contrast. Pure resentment, that’s all it is.

  65. Rachael W.

    Unfortunately the BBC World Service did not do such a good job this morning.

    They aired a small item on the Supermoon in which they broadcast a Statement from Richard Nolle (who they described as an Astronomer) in which he blamed the Supermoon for Hurricane Katrina, the Christchurch Earthquake and Crazy Weather. He was not questioned while making the statement and they moved onto the next news item immediately afterwards without any further comment whatsoever.

    Very disappointing!

  66. I like this graph for San Francisco in 1989. http://t.co/c4AFzBu

    I think it’s so awesome how the tide’s highest and lowest points are on October 16 (6.77 ft. @ 1300 hrs. and -1.23 ft. @ 2000 hrs.) The day before the World Series Earthquake. I’m sure there’s no causation.

    I mean, when I fill my bathtub the caulking around the tub cracks from the weight, but when I empty the tub the caulking either flakes off or the cracks align again making the cracks less visible. It doesn’t mean it’s the water volume. It could have happened when I got in the tub. Who knows why caulking cracks anyway? No one has the ability to predict when or where your caulking is going to crack. Needs more research.

    Ya think someone would give me a grant for caulking crack research? Should I be using the word “crack” so liberally when this blog post is about a Supermoon?

  67. not a hoax

    aw no, suppermoon is a hoax. why do you keep supporting it, the true reason is La Nina – which just recently released the stress on pacific, it moved water to Atlantic and thus there’s a volcano in iceland erupting in 20 years about the same time glacier in there is diminishing! were gonna die!!!

  68. Doug McLaren

    Also, the “supermoon” happens at about 1pm central time — but doesn’t even rise until 8pm or so. So by then, any exceptionalism on the part of the moon will be long gone — so people in the US won’t even get to see it.

    But by all means, get your camera and take pictures of it. And if you can’t go to Asia to get pictures of it at the right time, go ahead and simulate your own supermoon! All you have to do is change your lens! Rather than using a 300mm lens, using a 303mm lens should do it!

    And if you can’t change lenses, just use Photoshop or gimp or whatever to make your picture 1% bigger. Done!

  69. Klayyah

    WEll, it *is* true that tidal waves, earthquakes, bad scary weather, etc., can be attributed to the “super moon”. Heck, I could attribute those same things to my cat (if I had a cat.) oxforddictionaries.com says:

    attribute (at·trib·ute) (verb) regard something as being caused by (someone or something):

    In other words, it’s a matter of perception.
    Why is this an argument we can’t win? Because we’re having two arguments at the same time! We’re arguing about an erroneous understanding of cause and effect, but we are ALSO arguing about the way someone else perceives things… and in that second argument, we lack both expertise and sufficient data.

  70. Foo

    Brilliant article, there are a lot of people in Christchurch who are really worried about the some predictions by a Ken Ring “Moon Man” for later today. It’s really sad to see people believe what he has said, however after a major disaster like the earthquake last month, I can understand that people are more willing to believe:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10713721

  71. Kevin Brennan

    I got a GORGEOUS view of the moon last night, driving along some backwoods road at dusk. Clearly it will destroy us all ;)

  72. Justin

    Oh God. Now he is trying to counter argue the arguers. Take a look…

    http://www.astropro.com/features/articles/supermoon/

    He is convinced he’s right and that there are several super moons a year…

  73. Sauss

    @ Foo
    Yep hilarious article – I have been promoting the Amazon link to ‘Pawmistry’ to everyone I know who rates him.

  74. Sam H

    Oi!! Why is my very detailed previous comment containing important questions not appearing on this list? :o

  75. Tony S

    yes, but what about the werewolves?

  76. Scientesitcles

    ‘The Moon also affects us through tides, which are similar to gravity. But the tides will only be 5% stronger than usual for a perigee due to the Moon’s proximity!’

    Since the earths interior is molten liquid then 5% tidal change must also apply to the molten core. And since the earths crust floats on this bulging molten core which is being pulled an extra 5% towards the moon then surely there is a possibility you are all missing something in your argument???

    If the moon is the main reason my wife has a period every 28 days then I’m pretty sure it can influence slightly more and possibly stronger earthquakes every now and again…

    You scientists would have been the first to discredit Albert Einstein in the day and now anything else is discredited…can’t think for yourselves can you…bit thick most of you…

  77. Scientesitcles

    Oh yeah I missed out an important sentence….

    ‘The Moon also affects us through tides, which are similar to gravity. But the tides will only be 5% stronger than usual for a perigee due to the Moon’s proximity!’

    Since the earths interior is molten liquid then 5% tidal change must also apply to the molten core. And since the earths crust floats on this bulging molten core which is being pulled an extra 5% towards the moon then surely there is a possibility you are all missing something in your argument???

    If the moon is the main reason my wife has a period every 28 days (and therefore my ability to stick some VADGE) then I’m pretty sure it can influence slightly more and possibly stronger earthquakes every now and again…

    You scientists would have been the first to discredit Albert Einstein in the day and now anything else is discredited…can’t think for yourselves can you…bit thick most of you…

  78. PayasYouStargaze

    Actually, the Moon did look lovely on my way home tonight. :) Glad the skies were clear.

  79. Brian

    FYI. An astrologer in New Zealand predicted that the super moon would cause a major earthquake in the Christchurch/Canterbery area of NZ today (20 March.) This earthquake was supposed to occur around midday. It is now 3-15 pm and no major earthquake has occurred. Admittedly three moderately sized earthquakes did occur in South Canterbury (Magnitudes of 4.3 – 4.6) but this isn’t all that uncommon on an active fault line anyway. So I guess that’s another victory for science over astrology.

  80. Given your statement: “That extra 6000 km closer than on an average perigee is only about 1.6%, which is pretty trifling. It means the gravity of the Moon on the Earth is only 3% stronger.”
    If a tectonic plate was at (or suitably close to) a ‘tipping point’ it is possible the additional 3% tug would be one causal factor in the consequent tectonic activity. That’s not to say it’s *the* causal factor. I would expect the change in ‘tug’ from the Moons apogee-to-perigee is more than 3%. I’m not sure we fully understand all the factors that govern tectonic activity, we certainly can’t seem to predict them.
    Yes it is important not to overstate causal factors, and it’s equally important not to understate causal factors.
    I have little time for astrologers, charlatans, or purveyors of any form of hocus-pocus spouting their unsubstantiated facts. Each thesis and antithesis should stand or not as supported by the evidence, not by extremeness of rhetoric.
    I wrote a blog post (http://www.althinking.com/2011/03/19/professor-brian-cox-wonders-of-the-universe-stardust/) about Prof Brian Cox – Stardust which is episode 2 of Wonders of the Universe series. Whatever you think of the start of it, or the middle, you should at least enjoy the end of it! :)

  81. PlanetaryGear

    the worst part about the illusion that it’s bigger near the horizon for me is that you can’t capture the illusion on film. I got some beautiful long shutter exposures of the moon and some palm trees here, but when you look at it on the computer it looks just regular sized. I think I’ll fudge and ‘shop it.

  82. Terry

    You DO KNOW how far away the Moon is, don’t you?
    If the Earth were the size of a basketball, then the Moon would be the size of a tennis ball.
    AND, on the same scale, it would be on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM in terms of relative distances.

    Quiver in fear, while I snap my fingers in your direction.

  83. Messier Tidy Upper
  84. Ed

    Oh god, people like Melissa at the top piss me off. Yes we went to the bloody moon. It cost billions of dollars, back in the 60s. That was an enormous sum of money, and still is. It was done for reasons of national pride and to beat the Russians. There is no such incentive now.

    The proof is the fact that we can shoot a laser beam at a mirror left at the site of Apollo 15, and the beam comes back. That’s because that mirror is reflecting that laser beam, thus providing unequivocal proof that man has been on the moon.

    Why are we not doing it now? It’s far too expensive, and there is no reason to.

    Arrrrgh blind and ignorant people.

  85. #76 Justin:
    I see Mr. Nolle describes himself as a “certified professional astrologer”. The first word is what he should be!

  86. John Sandlin

    To add to Ed’s post, that mirror on the moon is a special kind of mirror designed so that any light that reflects off it is returned in exactly the direction in came from, within certain limits. Since the mirror is set to face the Earth and the limits are wide enough to cover all points coming from Earth, even given the Moons slight wobble, that means when the laser beam strikes that mirror, it is reflected exactly back to the facility on Earth that sent the beam. Very neat.

    Mirror might not be the best word. It is a rather special reflector, a retroreflector: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Laser_Ranging_experiment

  87. Mark

    I think it’s pretty ignorant to say the moon does not effect earthquakes. I think logically you would have to say it does whether you can prove it or not. I would imagine the data is diluted due to the large number of earthquakes we have every year much the same way the player advatage from card counting can be barely noticeable at the blackjack table.
    I think you need to parse the data in a differen’t way in order to see the truth.

    BTW, it’s not really the “mainstream media” pushing the earthquake theories. People who believe this range from nutcase astrology bloggers to well respected scientists around the globe. Saying the “mainstream media” is behind the theory just promotes the false impression that ignorant alarmists are responsible for it’s popularity. In fact I’ve seen WAY more mainstream media refuting the theory then embracing it.
    Everyone wants to be a contrarian these days. Scientists are always trying to portray their opinions as level headed words of wisdom aimed at calming the masses of uninformed peasant folk who run around yelling that the sky is falling. It’s kind of the “in thing” now with scientists. There are plenty of intelligent , laid back geologists on both sides of the debate. Common sense should at least indicate that the moon has SOME effect on seismic activity. The question is how much.
    Peoples opinions should stem from which “style” of personality they want to portray. I’m seeing far too much of that in the scientific community these days.

  88. mrG

    I am amazed at you people; you have no understanding of evolution or ecology. Look, let’s put it simply: would YOU want to work pushing fries at McDonalds? How about cleaning toilets in an office tower? Or politics, or writing for the mainstream media? No. And why? Because you’re not that stupid. So don’t you see? Those jobs are essential, most of them, someone MUST do them, and the ecology of human social culture has evolved an optimum solution whereby we get our toilets cleaned and our fries served and our policy papers debated leaving us to more intellectual pursuits like pontificating all over blogs that know nothing of evolution or ecology! This is not a new situation: Plato’s Republic already discussed this at length where he asks if we have any ethical right to teach mathematics to soldiers knowing that (a) it will just make them feel stupid and depressed that they can’t “get it” and (b) we NEED them to be soldiers, to do what they do well and can stand proud doing, feeling good about themselves and being competent in their own domain.

    So what’s the deal here, really? If the staff at McDonalds and the DJs at the local dork radio all think the moon causes hangnails, is it even ethical for us to educate them? Or are we being more educatedly intelligent smugly knowing the hangnail is caused by early childhood flu vacines and just letting them be?

  89. PayasYouStargaze

    @101 mrG: If you are actually suggesting that it would be ethical to not educate people, that is the most dispicable comment I’ve read in one of these comment threads ever. I hope that is not your actual opinion.

  90. supermoonin'

    @101mrG: You are amazed because you too are Simple.

    The fries at Mcdonalds suck. the trick is to ask for them without salt’ that way they have to make ‘em brand-new.
    Salt makes hangnails hurt more, so I dont work at Mcdonalds.
    Otherwise I’m Lovin’ it.

    I like to read this stuff while eating my superfries cause I’m superBAD.
    I also attend college.
    Good article btw

  91. Keith Bowden

    I’m astonished at how many people in this thread completely misread (or perhaps didn’t read) what Phil wrote. Yes the moon affects our tides and yes it has some effect on the core, etc. But it does not trigger some monstrous effect on plate techtonics and weather magically when it crosses some imaginary line. The increased effect is minuscule on thin, super-malleable water and really quite negligible on the far thicker core and solid plates.

    Tap the surface of a bowl of water. Makes a little splash, doesn’t it? Tap the ground; doesn’t really displace anything, does it?

    Even if you can’t follow the detailed maths, surely you can see the relationship between a slight additional force applied to water and that same force applied to more solid components.

  92. Mark

    I haven’t personally heard much about the Super-Moon causing earthquakes, but I did go through plenty of conversations this weekend about how people believe the moon being closer to earth causes it to look larger. Even today’s post by the Huffington Post says just as much. I then went on to explain the moon illusion, and most people just didn’t believe me. That could have been my fault for poorly explaining it, but I also think their own ‘intuition’ was also hindering their understanding. The moon really does look larger at times and it’s hard to go against what seems obvious.

    My guess is that most of the public don’t believe in the super-moon causing earthquakes, but have no idea about the moon illusion. I thought very much the same until learning about the illusion and even now it sometimes boggles my mind.

  93. Scientesticles

    In reply to 105.   Keith Bowden:

    Nobody is saying its a magical line across an imaginary distance. What we are merely saying is that there ‘may’ be a causal effect no matter how small. To just deny this simple statement makes you look like a religious zealot.

    Last night on the excellent Brian cox 3rd instalment he described how the moon came to a stop…do you remember this process? A solid bulge of rock attracted to the earth created a ‘tidal’ wave across the moons waterless surface, which eventually slowed the moon to halt.
    Read that again please; ‘waterless’.

    Isn’t this the exact opposite to your statement earlier on comment 105?
    ‘That it only has an effect on water’
    Come on, be honest.

    Gravity is generally considered the weakest force, but over large distances it becomes very powerful.

    For all your maths sometimes scientists fail to see the obvious.

    Maths is useful but it doesn’t provide answers for everything, write me a mathematical formula to disprove that you’re angered by my response? You can’t can you? But anger is real.

    Don’t get me wrong, Science is still the best tool we have but don’t make it into a religion please.

  94. jfb

    @melissa #10:

    I agree with all you say, except man on the moon, I it was done then why not now?

    $$$,$$$,$$$,$$$

    The Apollo program cost something like US $170 bn in 2005 dollars; any new manned lunar program would cost at least that much.

  95. Kevin

    Yeah, the “supermoon” stuff was blown way out of proportion. I noticed all the media were taking some NASA quotes way out of context (as usual).

    It was interesting to see that when I was out shooting the moon rising (way out in the country) there were other people stopping their cars and getting out to watch. I read online from others that it was happening all over the place. I guess we should be happy for the public being interested in something astronomical.

    Also, yesterday afternoon and evening Flickr was having some real problems. Thousands of moon images were being uploaded, and it taxed the servers. So I guess the “supermoon” had an effect after all.

  96. @64 That degree of association of rare earthquakes and full/new Moons is pretty much what we would see by chance alone see http://astroblogger.blogspot.com/2011/03/in-aftermath-of-march-19-supermoon.html (particularly scroll down to the bottom).

  97. MRJ

    “What we are merely saying is that there ‘may’ be a causal effect no matter how small. To just deny this simple statement makes you look like a religious zealot.”

    No, what science does is look for evidence that there is a causal effect – when none is found, conclusions are made. If science was based on your “there must be a causal effect, no matter how small” then it would be religion, not science.

    “Gravity is generally considered the weakest force, but over large distances it becomes very powerful.”

    No it doesn’t. It doesn’t get more powerful. It just has a longer range than the other forces.

    “For all your maths sometimes scientists fail to see the obvious.”

    The evidence shows one thing – you claim that the opposite is true, with no evidence, and then you accuse scientists of failing to see the obvious. It looks like you’re seeing what you want to see.

    “Maths is useful but it doesn’t provide answers for everything”

    It provides the tools that allow us to analyse data and look for statistical correlations. Scientists have no vested interest in showing the Moon doesn’t affect earthquakes – if it did, everyone would be very happy because it would allow us to predict them, based on the phases of the Moon. What you’re doing is deciding what you want to believe and then having a go when science produces evidence that disagrees with your cherished view. That’s the opposite of science.

  98. Deep Thought

    I would like to point out an inconsistency in Phil’s comment. On this page he says,

    “I’ll note, Deep Thought (17) the WashPo article you link to gives a lot of time to the ideas of Nolle and Parquette, and the writer gives it some credence.”

    However on his previous post on the subject, (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/11/no-the-supermoon-didnt-cause-the-japanese-earthquake/) Plait said “[UPDATE 2: Add the Washington Post to that list of good media, too.]” and linked to the very same article.

    I am confused. Is the Washington Post article a good one or not?

  99. Ema Nymton

    Holy crap, Scientesticles, I’ve been trying to figure out if you’re a moron or a loon. Then it suddenly hit me. Why can’t you be both?

  100. Nigel Depledge

    Chief (21) said:

    As to a question on the apparent size of the moon in that it looks so much larger when near the horizon, I though it was due to the illusion of having the comparison of buildings and trees or whatever near or in front of same. (Although in horizon vs overhead, hold a quarter at arms length and the moon will be the same size in relation to the quarter).

    Not really.

    If this were the case, then you could change the apparent size of the moon when it is high overhead simply by standing near a building to give you that size comparison.

    Also, the moon illusion also happens when you are in the middle of a calm sea (and therefore there are no reference points against which the moon can look big).

    Briefly, the moon illusion arises because:
    1. We do not percieve the world as it really is. What we think we see is a model created by our brains from sensory input. Many experiments of various kinds have shown this to be so.
    2. Our brain models the sky as a shallow upturned bowl, so objects in the sky near the horizon are modeled as being very distant, while objects directly overhead are assumed to be much closer. This makes a kind of sense if you consider the clouds on an overcast day – clouds overhead may be less than a kilometre away, while clouds close to the horizon may be several tens of kilometres distant.
    3. In order to accommodate the “known” distance, our brain adjusts the size at which we perceive various objects (thus, a distant object that is known to be large will be perceived as large, even if it occupies the same proportion of our field of view as a much smaller object that is much nearer).
    4. Because the moon retains essentially the same angular size in the sky all the time (OK, it varies by a few percent between apogee and perigee, but that is too small a difference for us to perceive without a direct side-by-side comparison), our brain models it differently depending on where in the sky it is. When it is high in the sky, it is assumed to be near, and therefore it is modelled as a small object, so it seems to be small. When it is near the horizon, it is assumed to be distant and so is modelled as a much larger object.
    5. You can verify this by viewing the moon through a cardboard tube. When it is near the horizon (and therfore seems to be large), it has the same angular size as when it is overhead (and therefore seems much smaller). When you look at it through a cardboard tube, you can tell that its angular size is the same no matter where in the sky it is.

  101. Nigel Depledge

    Scientesticles (108) said:

    Nobody is saying its a magical line across an imaginary distance. What we are merely saying is that there ‘may’ be a causal effect no matter how small. To just deny this simple statement makes you look like a religious zealot.

    And the simple reply is this:
    1. If there is a causal link, there will be a correlation.
    2. People have sought a correlation between the moon’s position and earthquake frequency. There is none, unless you count only shallow earthquakes, and then the correlation is very weak (i.e. it could quite easily be an artefact of random variation in the data rather than evidence of a real relationship).
    3. If the moon contributes to causing earthquakes, its effect is trivial next to all the other factors.

    To bang on about a “possible link” that is “worth investigating” (my paraphrase of the general approach of the yeasayers) is lunacy. Yes, in principle there’s a possible link, but it really is not worth investigating. Why? Because it won’t get us any closer to practical earthquake prediction.

    Anyone who is open to an honest assessment of the data can see that the relation of the moon’s position to earthquake occurrence is not worth spending any time or money on.

    Last night on the excellent Brian cox 3rd instalment he described how the moon came to a stop…do you remember this process? A solid bulge of rock attracted to the earth created a ‘tidal’ wave across the moons waterless surface, which eventually slowed the moon to halt.
    Read that again please; ‘waterless’.

    Isn’t this the exact opposite to your statement earlier on comment 105?
    ‘That it only has an effect on water’
    Come on, be honest.

    I can see here that it is you being dishonest.

    He never claimed that tidal forces only affect water. Just that the influence of tides on water is substantially more than it is on the Earth’s crust.

    Gravity is generally considered the weakest force, but over large distances it becomes very powerful.

    This is utter nonsense. Over large distances, gravity is less influential.

    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you meant to refer to larger masses?

    For all your maths sometimes scientists fail to see the obvious.

    What here is “obvious” that others have missed?

    Maths is useful but it doesn’t provide answers for everything, write me a mathematical formula to disprove that you’re angered by my response? You can’t can you? But anger is real.

    Actually, with a month or so’s research, I could write just such a formula. It’s just down to the kinetics of the endocrine system, coupled to the psychology of the feeling of being under attack.

    Would you care to pay my fee for that month’s work (a mere $25000 US)?

    Don’t get me wrong, Science is still the best tool we have but don’t make it into a religion please.

    No-one here has done this, and your attempt to show that someone has is dishonest and rather pathetic.

  102. Derek

    Ah yes… this supermoon silliness reminds me of when Mr. Iben Browning tried to “predict” the big earthquake along the New Madrid fault (in southeast Missouri) in 1990. All 3 major television networks went along the idiocy and made it worse. Folks started hoarding food and gas, etc.

    The quake NEVER happened. I was 15 at the time and thought it was stupid. Just goes to show you that there’s a lot of stupid people who believe anything that moves.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    Derek (120) said:

    The quake NEVER happened. I was 15 at the time and thought it was stupid. Just goes to show you that there’s a lot of stupid people who believe anything that moves.

    Sadly, it’s worse than that.

    There’s a lot of people who’ll believe anything that moves unless that thing demonstrates a greater knowledge of the world.

  104. The moon WILL be about 35% brighter than average tonight. But only 11% of that will be due to perigee. Most of what you will see is the much rarer “opposition effect”, where the moon is in opposition to the Sun, and near the ascending or descending node of its orbit, relative to the ecliptic. With the moon very nearly in syzygy, the opposition effect can make the moon as much as 40% brighter than a “normal” full moon, because of “heiligenschein”, a retroreflective effect of the moon’s rough and beaded surface. We cannot see the full effect on the Earth, because exact syzygy occurs only during a lunar eclipse. The moon must be more than 1.4 degrees away from syzygy to be fully illuminated, meaning the retro-reflection effect is diminished. There is a good description of this in the 1969 NASA Apollo 8 report SP-201, page 39. You can find a link at my website, http://server-sky.com/LunarBrightness

    About half a lunar orbit later, on May 20th, 2012, the moon will also be in syzygy (I love that word!), this time between the earth and the Sun. It will be at apogee, but it will still cover most of the sun’s disk in an annular eclipse. The best place in the US to see this 94% extinction of sunlight will be Crescent City, California at about 630pm Pacific time. Here in Portland, Oregon it will be a crescent shaped instead of an annular ring, “only” about 88% occluded, but still quite spectacular.

    Tonight, and probably two weeks from now, Portland will be covered with clouds. We won’t see much tonight, but we will still see a spooky dimming on the 20th. Unless the Mayan gods destroy us first :-)

    Almost all the media outlets seem to be channeling the astrologers and getting this wrong.

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