Maybe it lies within the plan of creation that we are so susceptible to everything that is bigger than what we already know or have already experienced. However, the following merely relates to heavenly bodies …
As we recently wrote in our article »Sun and moon the same size?« here in our full moon blog, the moon changes its distance to earth due to its unusual orbit and subsequently appears to be of a different size for the observer here on earth, depending on how close it is to earth at the time. Is the moon (or another heavenly body) as close to earth as possible, one speaks of perigee, and if it is the furthest away, it is called apogee. You can confidently forget these terms again, however, you may want to memorise that the moon can appear to us in different sizes. Next Saturday, shortly after full moon, the moon has reached the perigee again after 18 years and will appear to be bigger than usual:
Full moon: Saturday, 19th March 2011, 07:10:06 pm (CET)
Perigee: Saturday, 19th March 2011, 08:14:54 pm (CET)
However, the visible difference is not quite as substantial as you may read it in some tabloid newspapers. So don’t worry, you won’t need sun glasses for all that moon light. The difference in size and brightness will only be a few percent.
A few more words about the effect of the »supermoon« on earth. It is often said that near the time of perigee there would also be an increase in natural disasters. This is then reasoned with the greater forces that influence earth and in particular the water masses of the oceans. We have done some research in this area and most experts have come to the conclusion that these forces are not sufficient to cause any immense changes in the balance of earth. Especially the movement of the continental plates that can be responsible for earth quakes, is rather caused by the enormous forces in the interior of the earth than by the tides.
Even though, the latest tragic events in Japan happened in sequence around the oncoming perigee with approx. 8 days difference and the allegation of a causal connection might be tempting, one has to be very careful. A lot of untrue stories have been spread in the past with theories of disasters and Armageddon.
Let us rather take advantage of this beautiful big full moon for sending our compassionate and heartfelt thoughts to our Japanese brothers and sisters.