Date: Friday, 11-March-2011, 4:50 AM | Message # 1
The world is set to experience the biggest full moon for almost two decades when the satellite reaches its closest point to Earth next weekend.
On 19 March, the full moon will appear unusually large in the night sky as it reaches a point in its cycle known as 'lunar perigee'. Stargazers will be treated to a spectacular view when the moon approaches Earth at a distance of 221,567 miles in its elliptical orbit - the closest it will have passed to our planet since 1992. The full moon could appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter in the sky, especially when it rises on the eastern horizon at sunset or is provided with the right atmospheric conditions.
This phenomenon has reportedly heightened concerns about 'supermoons' being linked to extreme weather events - such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis
Will March 19 'Supermoon' Trigger Natural Disasters?
On March 19, the moon will swing around Earth more closely than it has in the past 18 years, lighting up the night sky from just 221,567 miles (356,577 kilometers) away. On top of that, it will be full. And one astrologer believes it could inflict massive damage on the planet.
Richard Nolle, a noted astrologer who runs the website astropro.com, has famously termed the upcoming full moon at lunar perigee (the closest approach during its orbit) an "extreme supermoon." When the moon goes super-extreme, Nolle says, chaos will ensue: Huge storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters can be expected to wreak havoc on Earth. (It should be noted that astrology is not a real science, but merely makes connections between astronomical and mystical events.)
But do we really need to start stocking survival shelters in preparation for the supermoon? [Photos: Our Changing Moon] The question is not actually so crazy. In fact scientists have studied related scenarios for decades. Even under normal conditions, the moon is close enough to Earth to make its weighty presence felt: It causes the ebb and flow of the ocean tides. The moon's gravity can even cause small but measureable ebbs and flows in the continents, called "land tides" or "solid Earth tides," too. The tides are greatest during full and new moons, when the sun and moon are aligned either on the same or opposite sides of the Earth.
According to John Vidale, a seismologist at the University of Washington in Seattle and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, particularly dramatic land and ocean tides do trigger earthquakes. "Both the moon and sun do stress the Earth a tiny bit, and when we look hard we can see a very small increase in tectonic activity when they're aligned," Vidale told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to SPACE.com.