Monday, June 17, 2013

SuperMoon on June 23?! Don't Believe the Hype!

At several of our FREE public Saturday afternoon shows this month at the John C. Wells Planetarium at JMU, we have been asked about claims made online regarding the "SUPERMOON" on June 23. Maybe you've seen this image online:

Some places have even gone so far to suggest that this "super moon" will cause natural phenomena such as severe weather or earthquakes!! My response? Don't believe the hype -- this is just bad science!!

Let's dig deeper. You may have seen images on Facebook or elsewhere stating that June's full moon will be the "largest and closest". While true you really couldn't tell the difference between June's full moon and any other month's full moon -- the effect is small! It certainly will not be as large as seen in the posters used to advertise the event! To demonstrate, here's an animated gif that a fellow planetarium colleague has created showing all the full moons in 2013.

Can you tell the difference? NOPE! So all this nonsense is just that! Don't believe the hype!!

NOTE: In a past blog post regarding a "Super Moon", while remaining skeptical of the whole notion, I stated that "... if this event gets people outside to enjoy our night sky that is slowly disappearing because of light pollution, then I think that's 'mission accomplished' ". I still support that idea, and in fact, I think every full moon is a beautiful site! Indeed it still amazes me today that we have sent 12 astronauts to walk on that body [and if you think it is wrong that we don't recognize that tremendous accomplishment, please sign my online petition!]. But since this meme keeps coming back again and again, it important that we debunk the bad science! 

So if you see this idea circulating amongst your social network, set them straight!

Shanil Virani
Director, John C. Wells Planetarium