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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Largest full moon in 18 years tonight

The largest full moon in 18 years will be visible tonight.  This occurs when the full moon coincides with the closest point to the earth. Dr Shirin Haque, University of the West Indies (UWI) physics professor and astronomer said the moon orbits the earth in an elliptical orbit, causing it to be closer and further away at different times.  

Dr Shirin Haque
“When a full moon coincides with the closest point to the earth the moon looks significantly larger by some 14 per cent and almost one third brighter.  This is called the perigee of the moon,” she said. “Do look out for it especially as it rises around sunset in the east as the moon illusion will add to the magnificence of the moon of this larger than normal full moon,” Haque said.
Haque said she has  received e-mail queries over whether the “supermoon” this weekend could have had anything to do with the recent earthquake in Japan. “Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The “super moon” of March 1983, passed without incident and another ‘super’  moon in December 2008 also proved harmless.

Tides will be higher as well,  understood and predicted by science. So, like the many other sensationalism type emails citing selective information reaching our inbox, this one has no sound scientific basis.” Haque said the last week has been witness of the power that the planet Earth can unleash with the unfortunate events such as the earthquake in Japan, with the domino effects of the tsunami and then the hazard created by a damaged nuclear reactor.

She said: “Some have wondered if the events in Japan could have any effects in the Caribbean.  We continue to be lucky – with the Caribbean located some 15,000 km away from Japan, (that) leaves us essentially unaffected by the events there. The danger zones for radiation are in the order of tens of kilometres from the site of radiation. Wind-blown material could travel further but will suffer dilution effects to render it essentially insignificant to us here.”


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