Planet? Moon? What’s the difference!?

This will be the last “supermoon” post, I hope. There’s just something about it which seems to make journalists become especially stupid. Perhaps the Victorian doctors who said the moon caused “lunacy” were onto something.

Anyway, here’s what has pride of place on the Mail‘s science page today:

Amazing pictures of lunar planet... the nearest it has been to Earth for 20 years

You know, lunar planet! That… moony planet?

Okay, Daily Mail Reporter, find your nearest 8 year old relative and ask them what the difference is between a “planet” and a “moon“. The answer may (not) surprise you!

The photos in the article are very nice looking, but the reason the moon looks so giant in them isn’t because of the “supermoon”. The trick is to take the photos of the moon when it’s very low on the horizon, grazing very distant buildings. Using a powerful zoom lens, you zoom in on the distant buildings, so they look normal sized and the moon looks gigantic. This isn’t something unique to supermoons, it can be done any day.

Like I said in last week’s post, the “supermoon” would never be as dramatic as the papers claimed – it was only 6% larger than usual, and this happens twice a month. Without a decent telescope and a camera, you probably wouldn’t notice the “supermoon” at all.

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  1. #1 by Richard T on Sunday, 20th March 2011 - 12:06 UTC

    There is a question which should be addressed to all those who prate about the ‘mystical’ variations of the moon and other bodies – ‘What is it in all this that put you under the influence of one of the planets so you talk and write out of Uranus?’

  2. #2 by Daz on Sunday, 20th March 2011 - 12:07 UTC

    Thousands of people will have gone outside and actually looked at the moon for the first time in ages because of all this fuss, and convinced themselves it was noticeably bigger. And thus the myth is strengthened.

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