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What is a Supermoon?

Abhijit Naik Nov 17, 2018
Can't make sense of all this hype about the Supermoon unleashing havoc on the planet? The information on lunar perigee, i.e. the Supermoon phenomenon, given here will help you do that - and that too by resorting to science and logic.
Though the term 'Supermoon' was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle way back in 1979, not many people were keen in knowing what it is, until the last year when Nolle went public saying that the 10th March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Ocean, which left the island nation of Japan devastated, was caused as a result of the Supermoon phenomenon.
Nolle has a lengthy list of natural disasters that, according to him, were triggered by this phenomenon in the past. But obviously, he uses the same list to back his claims about the Supermoon and its alleged effects on the Earth. Does the Supermoon really trigger natural disasters as Nolle suggests?

Richard Nolle's Concept of Supermoon

Nolle describes the Supermoon as the new moon or full moon which occurs close to the planet, within 90 percent of the actual distance, as a result of its alignment with the planet. He further adds, that this proximity of the Moon and the Earth has the tendency to trigger a series of natural disasters on the planet.
In order to support his claim, he puts forth a list of natural disasters in the past which he alleges happened as a result of this phenomenon. In fact, the latest entry that Nolle has made to his list cites that the 10th March earthquake, and the subsequent tsunami in Japan, was triggered by the Supermoon which occurred on 19th March.
Other incidents he has to cite in this list includes the Christchurch earthquake on 22nd February (which he attributes to the 18th February Supermoon), Hurricane Katrina on 23rd August, 2005, (attributed by Nolle to the 19th August Supermoon), 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, 1948 Ashgabat earthquake, etc.

Supermoon - How Does it Occur?

Everybody knows that the Moon orbits around the Earth, but only a few people are aware of the fact that its orbit is not round, but is elliptical in shape. As a result of this shape, the distance between the Earth and moon varies from time to time.
When the Moon is at its farthest point from the Earth, it is referred to as 'lunar apogee', and when it is at its closest it is referred to as 'lunar perigee'. In other words, the distance between the Earth and the Moon fluctuates between 221,000 to 252,000 miles - and lunar perigee occurs when this distance is somewhere around 221,000 miles.
What Nolle refers to as the Supermoon or Super full moon phenomenon is the lunar perigee, wherein the Moon comes very close to the Earth. As Dr. James Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, puts it - a Supermoon is a celestial phenomenon wherein the Moon is at its closest to the Earth.
He further adds that this phenomenon is at its visual best when it is a full moon or new moon day. It's but obvious that the proximity to Earth will make the Moon look bigger and brighter. If the stalwarts of the field of astronomy are to be believed, the Moon appears at least 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter during a lunar perigee.

Lunar Perigee Effects on Earth

There is no questioning the fact that lunar perigee has its effects on the planet - after all it is the combined effect of the Sun and the Moon on oceans which causes high tide and low tides. The tide is higher than the usual even during the full moon or new moon, so the same during the Supermoon is pretty obvious.
When the Moon is at its closest to the planet, its gravitational pull increases, which, in turn, is adds to the tidal force and causes extreme tides. When we say extreme, we refer to the fact that the tide will be more powerful as compared to usual, but NOT powerful enough to cause any harm to the planet, leave alone trigger an apocalypse.

Supermoon Myths Debunked

On 5th May, 2012, the Moon closed in on the Earth in such a manner that the distance between the two was 221,802 miles closer, considering that the distance between the two is 235,000 miles. The Moon was at its closest at 11:34 p.m. Being closer than usual, it appeared brighter and larger than what we get to see every day, but that didn't affect anyone.
Though the 5th May Supermoon will be the closest full moon of the year, it will be still at a greater distance as compared to the last Supermoon which occurred on 19th March, 2011.
The distance between the Earth and the Moon back then was 221,567 miles - which was the closest that the Moon had come to our planet in the last 18 years, and that prompted people to refer to this event as 'Extreme Supermoon'.
Last year, there was a lot of hype about this occurrence with news about its allegedly harsh effects on the planet flooding the Internet. The fact that it was called an Extreme Supermoon only added to the hype of this phenomenon, with some people going to the extent of associating it with the end of the world.
Nothing happened though, and nothing is expected to change this time around either. As with the 19th March Supermoon, the effects of the 5th May Supermoon will be only restricted to tides. But even then, the tidal force won't be strong enough to trigger any untoward incident on the planet.
As far as the other natural disasters associated with this phenomenon are concerned, these are just some myths that are being circulated by conspiracy theorists with no scientific or logical explanation backing them whatsoever.
Many people associated the last years' Supermoon phenomenon with the tsunami in Japan, but there was no concrete evidence to validate the relationship between these occurrences. That the earthquakes and tsunamis that we witness on the planet are triggered as a result of crustal movements of the Earth, is something that we were thought back in school.
As far as the list put forth by Richard Nolle is concerned, none of the events that he has enlisted coincide with exact Supermoon dates. In fact, they either occur a few days or weeks before/after the actual date.
Even if we believe that this phenomenon triggers havoc on the planet, shouldn't its impact be at the highest on the actual date instead of a few days before/after the occurrence? Worth giving a thought for sure! If it is really so devastating, how come we didn't hear of it before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami? Again worth giving a thought!
If you take all these things into consideration, you realize that the allegedly devastating Supermoon phenomenon is in fact just a celestial occurrence - a delight for backyard astronomers though. That explains why enthusiasts all over the world eagerly await this phenomenon.
Irrespective of whether you take interest astronomy or not, you should step out of your house during the lunar perigee and witness the amazing occurrence. After all, a 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter Moon is something that you don't get to see very often.