Culture

Supermoon

Everyone is talking about it and tonight, this being a hot (38 °C) balmy day here in Cape Town, we should have a fantastic view of the Supermoon:

Tonight the moon will be closer to the earth than it has been for 18 years – a spectacular sight awaits us…

This weekend a new word rises over the horizon of the English language. The full Moon tonight has been designated a “supermoon” as it will be the nearest approach of the Moon to Earth for the past 18 years, bringing it some 30,000 miles closer than usual. If we have clear skies, this lunar event will be weighted with a special sense of expectation – perhaps, for some people, even dread.

The astrologer who named it a “supermoon” predicted that its arrival would coincide with chaos on Earth, and points to the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan as evidence. The Moon’s closeness this weekend means that its usual gravitational pull on our tides will be intensified; we can expect high tides in two days. The oceans are not the only things that respond to the Moon’s approach; the Earth’s crust is not solid, but expands and contracts to a small degree in response to the Moon’s attraction, a phenomenon known as “earth tide”; a small increase in such tectonic shifts might be expected.

Those planning to watch it should be in position as the Moon rises above the horizon, at between 6.15 and 6.45pm, depending on your location; this is when the Moon looks largest, owing to the well-known “moon illusion”. (This is often thought to be caused by the fact that on the horizon, the Moon is close to objects with which we can compare it, making it seem very large, while when it is overhead it is in isolation, so that the brain reads it as smaller.) Even though the fact that the Moon is closer than usual will not make it seem any bigger, the illusion will guarantee that its ascent is suitably dramatic…

More here.

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