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Jul
11

All About the Supermoon

If you’re looking at the moon any time today and tomorrow, you will notice a 30% size increase. This is one of those times that the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. Check out this 5-minute clip from this morning’s South Florida’s First News with guest Susan Barnett talking to hosts Jimmy Cefalo and Manno Muñoz.1

Jimmy: Were you able to see the moon this morning, around all those clouds that were around?
Manny: Almost “super” looking.
Jimmy: It was, and tomorrow, it’s going to be even more “super,” I think.
Manny: And luckily for us, we’re both up very early, so we’ll probably get a chance to see it if we go outside.
Jimmy: Yeah. That’s why it’s called a “super-moon,” and we’re going to have three of them in the next three months. What’s up with that? How come that’s happening?
Manny: Sign of Armageddon, Jimmy. According to some.
Jimmy: No, I think it’s global warming.
Manny: No, I don’t think it’s that.
Jimmy: I think it is.
Manny: Sign of the Apocalypse.
Jimmy: We’re moving closer to the moon. That’s what’s happening. Let’s find out with Susan Barnett of the Director of the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory at Broward College. Check out their website, which is really cool, at Iloveplanets.com. Good morning to you, Susan!
Susan: Good morning, good morning!
Jimmy: So we’re moving closer to the moon because of global warming.
Susan: Well, the world’s not ending. It’s not global warming. And actually, it’s the moon moving closer to us!
Jimmy: Oh! How much closer?
Susan: Frankly, on an average, just a few thousand miles. In terms of astronomy, a few thousand is like 30,000 miles. See, the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle centered on the earth. So from its closest approach—think of it as a ring spinning on the table. The orbit wobbles. So from the time of the year where it’s the absolute closest to the earth to its farthest, it’s only a difference about 30,000 miles. What’s 30,000 miles among friends?
Jimmy: Right. But we’re going to have three of them in three months. Isn’t that unusual?
Susan: No.
Jimmy: Oh, okay.
Susan: To be perfectly blunt, no it isn’t. The word itself, “supermoon,” has only really been in common use the last few years. And to be honest, it wasn’t an astronomer who coined it. So, it’s now known [that] the definition of the word supermoon is, when it’s within 10% of that closest approach of its orbit for that month.
Jimmy: Oh, I see.
Susan: And by that definition, it happens four to six times a year. Astronomers used to call this point “perigean full moon.” The perigee is that point of the orbit closest. “Supermoon” is a lot catchier.
Jimmy: Yeah it is. It’s also called “thundermoon” or “buck moon,” I’m reading. Is that correct?
Susan: That is. One of the fun things about looking at the moon is, if you look at the folklore of all different cultures, people have given these moons lots of different names. So every culture has its favorite names for the moons at different months. For instance, we think June is such a popular month for weddings because it’s also called the “honeymoon.”
Jimmy: Oh, really? I like that. And what’s the difference between a supermoon or a thundermoon, or whatever you want to call it, and, say, a harvest moon?
Susan: The month.
Jimmy: Oh, that’s it?
Susan: That’s it. Those are just nicknames that people in different cultures have given it. Harvest moon was often called that because the bright light of the full moon gave farmers extra time to bring in the crops in the fall.
Jimmy: And so, if it was in say, October, it would be a harvest moon. But it’s the same moon as right now, [which] is simply a supermoon.
Susan: Possibly. If it occurs at that point in its orbit closest. I think all full moons are beautiful.
Jimmy: Yeah, I do, too.
Susan: To me, the most fun thing about supermoons is that it gets people talking about the moon.
Jimmy: Yeah, and we talk about [how] different cultures call it different things. Different cultures also believe different things about the moon, don’t they?
Susan: Oh, absolutely. There’s lots of stories or what we call sky lore about the moon. People are always trying to explain: Why does it go through the different shapes, the phases that it makes? Why are there markings on the moon? If you want to know more about the moon, this is a fun time of year for looking at the moon. Next week, we’ve got a very important date coming up.
Jimmy: What’s that?
Susan: Did you realize 45 years ago, we landed on the moon?
Jimmy: Oh, right. 1969. Absolutely.
Susan: 1969, and the anniversary is next week. In honor of that, we’re holding a festival here, Saturday, July 19th,called Moonfest.
Jimmy: Oh, cool!
Susan: So, if you want to know more about the moon, come on down to the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory.
Jimmy: Yeah, at Broward College. And can we learn more at IlovePlanets.com?
Susan: Absolutely, IlovePlanets.com or our Facebook page.
Jimmy: How do we find your Facebook page?
Susan: Search for Broward College’s Buehler Planetarium.
Jimmy: Got it. That’s easy too. The full moon is always tough for me because I turn into a werewolf, and it’s kind of hard. Thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure. You’ve shed great light on this—no pun intended.
Susan: Thank you very much.
Jimmy: We’ll talk to you at the next strange moon sighting that we see.

Though the hosts were clearly being facetious when suggesting that the supermoon could be heralding the end of all things, as they pointed out, there are plenty of people who actually believe this type of thing. In what he calls “Moonpocalypse”, one writer points out all the various disasters that Doomsayers have attempted to tie to supermoons in the past—including a 1938 New England hurricane in 1938, the 1955 Hunter Valley floods, a 1974 cyclone Tracy which struck Australia, and the 2005 Indonesian Tsunami as well as Hurricane Katrina.2 None of which has been borne out by the facts, and in some cases, the timing didn’t even match. Another author points out that Doomsday predictions seem to occur so often—perhaps twice a year—and the supermoon is certainly tied to some of that.3 Although there have been claims that the supermoon has been tied to various natural disasters, about the only real effect has been to cause tides about an inch higher than usual.
Another interesting fact alluded to the in the video was that astronomers did not coin the term “supermoon.” That honor goes to an astrologer named Richard Nolle, writing in a 1979 issue of Dell Horoscope. While this might make some of the more educated roll their eyes, astrologers have contributed others terms to astronomy, including the names of the planets.4
The moon was very important to many different cultures. Check out these other terms that many Native American tribes used to refer to the large moon:

  • Full Wolf Moon (January). During this time, wolf packs traveled hungrily outside of Native American villages.
  • Full Snow Moon (February). This is typically when the heaviest snowfall of the year occurs.
  • Full Worm Moon (March). As the temperature warms up, earthworms begin to appear in the mud.
  • Full Pink Moon (April). This is the time when the earliest wildflowers, such as the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, began to bloom.
  • Full Flower Moon (May). This is when other flowers—not just the pink ones—started to come into bloom.
  • Full Strawberry Moon (June). This is when strawberries began to come into season.
  • Full Buck Moon (July). This marked the period of time when the new antlers of buck deer would push out of their foreheads.
  • Full Sturgeon Moon (August). This was the best period of time for catching sturgeon, as well as other varieties of fish.
  • Full Harvest Moon (September & October). This is the time when corn should be harvested; usually occurs in September but sometimes in October.
  • Full Beaver Moon (November). This was the optimal time to set beaver traps and obtain furs in order to keep warm for the winter.
  • Full Cold Moon (December). Not only are temperatures at their coldest, but also the nights are at their longest, making it even colder.5

As if the supermoon phenomenon wasn’t enough, there’s more! A while back, a user on the Graham Hancock forum had asked me my opinion on the Blood Moons. There is an excellent breakdown of this phenomenon courtesy of Maria LaRosa on America’s Morning Headquarters and her guest, J. Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope magazine:6

Maria: Of course, I’m totally geeking out over tonight’s lunar eclipse… The best part, though, tonight’s eclipse will bring out the blood moon. The fun starts at 1:58 AM (Eastern time). That’s the best part, right there. Tonight, complete eclipse by 3:06 AM (Eastern time). The moon will appear red because the sun’s light will be reflected through the earth’s atmosphere through into and onto the lunar surface, so it gives it that red appearance. And for more on the blood moon, we bring in J. Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope. And we appreciate your time so much, Kelly. First off, why the blood moon? Why do we call it the blood moon? It’s nothing other than it’s just a lunar eclipse.
J. Kelly: So you would think that when the moon goes through the shadow of the earth, it would completely black out. But if you’re looking back toward the earth, because we have an atmosphere, you’d see a crimson ring all around it. And it’s that light, leaking through the atmosphere, that gives the surface that reddish color. In fact, I think that’s really why they dyed the fountain red in St. Louis.
Maria: I like your take, I like your take. Where is the best place to see the eclipse?
J. Kelly: Wherever it’s clear. The lunar eclipse can be seen from an entire hemisphere of the earth. Anywhere you can see the moon when this is happening, you’ll see the eclipse. Not very likely here in the Northeast, I’m afraid.
Maria: Right, because we have the cloud cover. Southeast, I’m concerned about too. You’re looking right now at the cloud cast… And of course, you don’t need any special eye gear to witness this.
J. Kelly: That’s absolutely correct. This is an eyeball astronomy event. And it’s a slow-motion event. This whole eclipse takes about 3½ hours. From totality to totality is 78 minutes of blackout. Keep an eye out for subtle changes in the color of the moon. It’s red, but it’ll be red, and orange, and maybe different colors in different parts.
Maria: All right. Kelly, thank you so much for your time. We’re looking forward to seeing the pictures at least here in the Southeast. I appreciate your time!

But again, we have an interesting scientific phenomenon turned into another end-of-the-world scenario by the Doomsayers. And of course, one easily debunked, given that—like supermoons—we have had blood moons in the past, and are no worse off for it. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop people from talking about the blood moon from heralding Christ’s return or starting the Great Tribulation.7
Why is the Blood Moons theory so popular? Probably because of Bible quotes such these:

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe–inspiring Day of the Lord comes. (Joel 2:31)

And:

Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; (Revelation 6:12)

And in general, all types of astronomical signs—supermoons, comets, and anything else—have a Biblical precedent:

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves. (Luke 21:25)

NASA scientist David Morrison coined the term “cosmophobia” to describe the irrational fear of objects in outer space, and that certainly seems an apt explanation here.

References

  1. Cefalo, J., & Muñoz, M. (2014, July 11). South Florida’s First News [Radio broadcast]. Miami, FL: WIOD.
  2. Diaz, J. (2011, March 8). The SuperMoon Apocalypse is here! (No, actually, it’s not.) Gizmodo. Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/5779564/the-supermoon-apocalypse-is-near-or-maybe-not
  3. Campbell, H. (2013, June 23). Super Moon – Your semi-annual dose of Apocalypse. Science 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.science20.com/science_20/super_moon_your_semiannual_dose_apocalypse-115290
  4. Bakich, M. E. (2014, August). The truth behind the Super Moon. Astronomy, pp. 64–65.
  5. Full moon names and their meanings. (n.d.). Farmers’ Almanac. Retrieved from http://farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names/
  6. Bettes, M., Champion, S., LaRosa, M., & Rodriguez, A (Presenters). (2014, April 14). In S. Warren (Executive Producer), America’s Morning Headquarters (AMHQ) [Television series]. Atlanta, GA: The Weather Channel.
  7. Hyde, T. (n.d.). 4 Blood Moons of Tribulation 2014–2015? Mark Blitz theory debunked. Escape All These Things. Retrieved from http://www.escapeallthesethings.com/2015-blood-eclipses.htm

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