The moon from Majora's Mask

You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?

The question: Could ‘supermoon’ next week disrupt Earth’s weather?

The web was yesterday awash with apocalyptic warnings that the movement of the moon will trigger tidal waves, volcanic eruptions and even earthquakes next week.

The conspiracy theorists claim that on March 19, the moon will be closer to Earth than at any time since 1992 – just 221,567 miles away – and that its gravitational pull will bring chaos to Earth.

The answer:

But astronomers have dismissed the claims as pure nonsense.

Take us away, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.


The Sun and Metro have both managed to be much worse than the Mail. The Sun has the headline “‘Disaster’ as Moon closes in” while Metro has “‘Supermoon’ may cause weather chaos for coastal Britain“. Bear in mind that the Moon comes almost this close twice a month – the only thing that makes this time “super” is that it happens to coincide with a full moon, and even then, that happens every 2 or 3 years. This will cause slightly higher tides, yes, but according to the NOAA, these happen 3 or 4 times per year (since they can be triggered by new moons and nearly-full moons too) and the change in the tide is only around 2%.

The Telegraph‘s coverage is better – there’s far less doom – though as much as I hate to be a party pooper, it’s going to be less dramatic than they make out. On average. the moon’s “angular diameter” – the amount of the sky it fills up – is 0.259 degrees. In other words, the moon would appear the same size as a five pence coin held 1.99 metres (6 feet 6 inches) away from your face. During the supermoon, its angular diameter is 0.274 degrees- the same as a five pence coin held 1.88 metres (6 feet 2 inches) away. That’s roughly a 6% increase in size – and this increase happens twice every month.

If you could compare the two side by side, you would see the difference – if you’ve got a small telescope or a decent pair of binoculars, then a supermoon should be a great opportunity to have a look up there – but otherwise, you probably couldn’t tell (the moon illusion causes the size of the moon to appear to vary by way more than 6% anyway). At any rate, the Telegraph‘s illustration is… a little exaggerated.


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  1. #1 by Nick on Thursday, 10th March 2011 - 13:04 GMT+0100

    “The moon’s orbit around Earth is not a circle, but an eclipse.” says the Mail. Remind me again why I’m meant to give credence to science stories in a publication unsure of the difference between an ellipse and an ellipse.

  2. #2 by The Good Greatsby on Friday, 11th March 2011 - 3:40 GMT+0100

    Any news on whether werewolf attacks are expected to increase during the Supermoon period? Does the size of moon make werewolves more agitated or are all full moons the same to them?

  3. #3 by Nick on Friday, 11th March 2011 - 8:45 GMT+0100

    Have just noticed that I wrote ‘ellipse’ twice instead of ‘eclipse’. This wasn’t irony. I was an idiot. Sorry Daily Mail, typos are easily made, I see. The rest of the article’s still silly rubbish though.

    “There will be no earthquakes or volcanoes erupting, unless they are to happen anyway” comes across in a different light this morning though, unfortunately.

  4. #4 by Dan G Swindles on Saturday, 12th March 2011 - 13:18 GMT+0100

    You guys might mock, but remember what happened last time the Moon was this close in 1992?

    Yep, Spice Girls

    Consider yourselves warned

  1. The Supermoon did NOT cause a tsunami « Atomic Spin

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