Saturday 'supermoon' nothing to fear

Astronomer Dave Reneke says the moon on March 19 will be at its closest to the Earth since 1992. It will appear slightly bigger and brighter, but will not bring the chaos some fear mongers have predicted.
Astronomer Dave Reneke says the moon on March 19 will be at its closest to the Earth since 1992. It will appear slightly bigger and brighter, but will not bring the chaos some fear mongers have predicted. Stefan Seip

ON SATURDAY night, the Moon will be closer to Earth than it has been in 19 years, but it won't look much different – and it certainly won't cause an apocalypse.

North Coast-based writer for Australian Science Magazine Dave Reneke said he wants to debunk the “supermoon” myth doing the rounds on the internet, which claims the Moon's close proximity to the Earth may trigger earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions.

The idea was spawned by US astrologer Richard Nolle, who claims there is a link between natural disasters and “supermoons”.

Since then the internet has been flooded with speculation linking the movement of the Moon to extreme weather events including Hurricane Katrina and the Hunter Valley floods.

“Supermoon is a term coined by an astrologer, not an astronomer, and it has no scientific merit whatsoever,” Mr Reneke said.

“The warnings are total nonsense ... the movement of the Moon cannot be directly linked with disastrous tidal waves, volcanic eruptions or even earthquakes.

“If you try hard enough you can associate any disaster in history to any celestial object.

"The Moon has come close to the Earth thousands of times in the past with no ill effects.”

Mr Reneke said the only truth was that the Moon would be a few thousand kilometres closer to Earth than normal – about 356,577kms away, compared with an average distance of about 380,000km.

All that could be expected would be slightly higher and marginally lower tides.

The Moon will also be about 15% brighter than usual and slightly bigger.

“So grab your binoculars and the kids head out into your backyard for a good view ... and leave the insurance policy inside,” he said.

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