'Supermoon' to Come Closest to Earth on Saturday

Society » ENVIRONMENT | March 18, 2011, Friday // 08:29
Bulgaria: 'Supermoon' to Come Closest to Earth on Saturday Another phenomenon, a rare total lunar eclipse, was observed on December 21, 2010. Photo by EPA/BGNES

On March 19 the Moon will be 356 577 km away from the Earth, which is as close to our planet as it has been in 18 years.

The lunar phenomenon, the so-called Supermoon, is a new or full moon that coincides with a close approach by the Moon to the Earth.

Since the Moon is at the fullest part of its cycle, the Saturday's phenomenon has even been upgraded to an "extreme Supermoon", the Independent reported.

For amateur and professional astronomers, a lunar perigee, which describes when the Moon is closest to us, offers an opportunity to get up very close to the Earth's satellite.

However, a Supermoon is considered a far from welcome sign be more conspiracy-minded people because of speculations of a link between the occurrence of the phenomenon and natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunami.

Arguments have been made that natural disasters coinciding with years in which Supermoons occurred were influenced by the Moon's increased gravitational strength, though because of the monthly alternation between lunar apogee and perigee such an argument cannot be supported unless the disaster in question falls on the actual date of the Supermoon.

According to Tanyu Bonev, Director of the Astrology Institute at the Rozhen National Astronomical Observatory at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Saturday's phenomenon is interesting because the lunar perigee coincides with full moon, which means that the Sun, the Earth and the Moon will be almost aligned.

In his words, such coincidence of the perigee and the full moon occurs at periods of about 413 days, but it cannot cause natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami or volcano eruptions.

"The cause of the earthquake is the movement of continental plates, their overlaps and slips. The Moon cannot have caused these processes in Japan," he said.

Bonev also said that more natural disasters had occurred when the Moon was at a different part of its cycle.

On March 19, the Supermoon can be seen from everywhere in Bulgaria, during the whole night, as long as there is a clear sky with no clouds.

"The Moon will rise just after the sunset, in a direction opposite to the direction of the sunset. So people can look for it over the eastern horizon," Bonev said.

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Tags: moon, Earth, Earthquake, tsunami, natural disasters, Japan, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Supermoon
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