Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super Moon

Most of this information came from NASA, so I figure it must be pretty accurate.  Our Creator certainly made a fascinating universe for us to dwell in!

Thanks to a fluke of orbital mechanics that brings the moon closer to Earth than that it has been in more than 18 years, the biggest full moon of 2011 will occur on Saturday, leading some observers to dub it a "supermoon."  The moon will appear about 15% larger and 30% brighter.  On Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the moon will arrive at its closest point to the Earth in 2011:  a distance of 221,565 miles  away. And only 50 minutes earlier, the moon will officially be full.  The moon will appear about 15% larger and 30% brighter. The last time the moon was in this position was March 1993.

The supermoon will not cause natural disasters, such as the Japan earthquake, a NASA scientist has stressed.

However, Saturday’s full moon with perigee will result in a dramatically large range of high and low ocean tides.  The highest tides will not, however, coincide with the perigee moon but will actually lag by up to a few days depending on the specific coastal location. For example, in Wilmington, N.C., the highest tide (5.3 feet) will be attained at 11:21 p.m. EDT on March 20.  But then, to those living on the shores near the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada, the 10- to 20-foot  increase in the vertical tidal range makes it obvious when the Moon lies near perigee, clear skies or cloudy. Any coastal storm at sea around this time will almost certainly aggravate coastal flooding problems.  Such an extreme tide is known as a perigean spring tide, the word spring being derived from the German springen – to "spring up," and is not, as is often mistaken, a reference to the spring season.  In fact, the last time this occurred was in the month of October.

Big full moon's appearance is deceiving

When the perigee moon lies close to the horizon, it can appear absolutely enormous. That is when the famous “moon illusion” combines with reality to produce a truly stunning view.  For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging moon looks incredibly large when hovering near trees, buildings and other foreground objects. The fact that the moon will be much closer than usual this weekend will only serve to amplify this strange effect.

So … a perigee moon, either rising in the east at sunset or dropping down in the west at sunrise might seem to make the moon appear so close that it almost appears that you could touch it.

Other interesting photos and info about the moon:

Oh My Darling, ClementineCredit: NASA:  In this 1994 picture from the Clementine spacecraft, the moon is illuminated solely by light from the sun that is being reflected from the Earth. This "earthshine" occurs near the new moon. The sun is just behind the moon, creating the eerie glow. The Clementine spacecraft, which launched Jan. 25, 1994, was a joint experiment between NASA and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. One of the mission's objectives was to observe the moon. The spacecraft made worldwide headlines that year when it discovered possible indirect evidence for water ice on the moon, in a permanently shadowed miles-deep crater at the lunar south pole.

Mapping the Lunar TopographyCredit: NASA/GoddardTidal forces between the moon and the Earth have slowed the moon's rotation so that one side of the moon always faces toward our planet. Though several spacecraft have imaged the far side of the moon before, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is providing new details region. This image, taken by instruments onboard LRO, highlights the moon's topography, with the highest elevations up above 20,000 feet in red and the lowest areas down below 20,000 feet in blue.

Breaking Down the Moon's MineralsCredit: /NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGSThis image of the moon is from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan 1 mission, which launched in Oct. 2008. It is a three-color composite of reflected near-infrared radiation from the sun, and illustrates the extent to which different materials are mapped across the side of the moon that faces Earth. Small amounts of water and hydroxyl (blue) were detected on the surface of the moon at various locations.

And, just so y'all know it's really me writing all this studious stuff, here is my final comment:  Happy Mooning!


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