Supermoon Risk Window of March 16th Through 22nd is Open

Mar 17, 2011, 07:48

Supermoon has easily become one of the most widely spread buzzwords on the Internet. The moon is expected to get extra-close to the Earth on March 19, causing a visual spectacle. Though some on the internet are quick to blame the imminent supermoon for the earthquake in Japan, scientists insist that the two are not related.

�At the time of the earthquake in Japan, the moon was actually closer to it�s furthest point in orbit from Earth than it was to its March 19 closest point, so the gravitational effect of the moon was, in fact, less than average at that time,� NASA astronomer Dave Williams wrote in an email to �It was basically a normal day on Earth as far as the lunar gravity and tidal forces were concerned. Unless the Earth somehow �knew� the supermoon was coming, I can�t imagine any scientific connection between the two events.�

The supermoon buzz comes from less-than-scientific sources. The term �supermoon� is credited to Richard Nolle, an astrologer who first used the term in the 1970s. The term supermoon describes a new or full moon at its perigee, or the point in its orbit where the moon is closest to the Earth. On March 19, the moon will get closer to the Earth than it has in 18 years. Noelle writes on his website Astropro that we can expect to see an increase in disasters and tidal activity during what he calls this �supermoon risk window,� from March 16-22, according to

However, scientists say this is simply not true.

�There have been a lot of studies on whether earthquakes on our planet were triggered when the moon was closest to Earth, and no conclusive evidence has ever been found for that,� Peter Goldreich, an emeritus professor for the Astronomy and Planetary Science Department at Caltech University, told �The idea is that the strain builds up in the Earth until only a small little bit of extra gravitational force could tip it over and cause an earthquake, and this could come from the moon. But there�s been absolutely no correlation for that.�

However, the moon could experience some quakes of its own this week.

�There is on the moon seismic activity connected with a lunar perigee,� Goldreich said. �These were detected by seismological instruments left on the moon by the Apollo astronauts. There was an effect, but it wasn�t enormous.�