A Photographers Dream and a Nurses Nightmare
March 19 will be a good day for photographers and astronomers. The moon will be the biggest, fullest it has been for 18 years. This point of the moons orbit – where it is closest to Earth – is known as the Lunar Perigee.
While this is common, this closeness happens every 9 years, it doesn’t often coincide with a full moon. As long as there is a clear sky in your neighborhood get ready for a big moon. Even with binoculars or a good zoom lens on your camera you will be able to see incredible detail.
A combination of effects have aligned to put this show on for us all. The elliptical orbit of the moon – it’s sometimes called our Eccentric Companion – along with Earths elliptical orbit and the gravitational effects of the sun mean the moon will be 30,000km closer to earth than usual – normally it’s 354,000km from earth.
This combined with the full moon makes this a show worth checking out. “It’s only every few years that a full moon happens to coincide with the part of the Moon’s orbit when its closest to the Earth,” said Marek Kukula, an astronomer at the UK’s Royal Observatory.
The effect will be most obvious when the moon is near the horizon, either setting or coming up. “When it’s close to the horizon, our brain interprets it as being bigger than it actually is, this is called the moon illusion,” Dr Kukula said. These will be the best times to get photo’s, if we’re really lucky and the atmosphere is just right you may also get a red color to the moon – caused when the moon is near the horizon and the atmosphere filters much of the blue light out.
The effects of this event should be limited to larger than normal high / low tides, and a large amount of nerds standing by the side of the road looking at the sky. Look out no running us nerds over people.
The night of the lunatic. If you thought things got hyperactive on a normal full moon wait till March 19, 2011 when we have the largest full moon for 18 years. There are many anecdotal reports from emergency room doctors and police that people do go off on full moon and this will be the fullest moon in years.
Some people link the lunar perigee with disasters, like earthquakes. Ever since people started regularly observing the moons behaviour thousands of years ago we also started attributing disasters to these events. These connections are still made to this day. With regard to the lunar perigee being responsible for earth quakes Dr Victor Gostin, Planetary and Environmental Geoscientist at Adelaide University says “This is because the Earth-tides (analogous to ocean tides) may be the final trigger that sets off the earthquake,”. Still this doesn’t mean this event will outright cause an Earth quake but if one has built up – and would happen eventually without the Lunar Perigee anyway - it could be triggered by the extra forces – gravity.
There is no scientific evidence that connects the moons perigee events – passing this close to earth – with earth quakes and storms, It is easy to see how powerful anecdotal evidence assumed during these events though, I see something in the sky, Moon’s is bigger than normal or a comet and connect that with the things happening around us. Astronomer and lecturer, David Reneke said, “If you want you can just link all the natural disasters that occur with what has been seen in the night sky – a comet, planets, the sun”, he was being ironic.
The moon is actually slowly moving away from earth and will eventually slip from earths grip. Earth’s gravity isn’t strong enough on it’s own to hold the moon. If we had two moons they could act on each other and there would be no drift off but that’s a big ask.
Now it’s time to stake out a location, get the Thermos of coffee ready and get snapping. Watch out for the odd stray lunatic and have a good night watching our Eccentric Companion up close.
Buddha’s Brother out…