Saturday will bring us a supermoon, an astronomical phenomenon during which the moon is both full and at its closet point to Earth in its orbit. Meaning: the moon's gonna be really freaking big tomorrow night, or according to science, about 16 percent bigger than average. So, should you be afraid of the big moon?
People have proposed many theories as to the effects of the supermoon, some more scientifically dubious than others. Fortunately we're here to walk you through the threats as you prepare for Saturday night.
Will the Supermoon make you crazy? If the glut of vampire Y.A. lit has taught us anything (hopefully it hasn't), it's that full moons make people do weird things. But much like the animal transformations under a full moon in fiction, lunar-induced crimes and psychotic breakdowns are made-up too. "But no matter how far away a full moon is, it's not going to make people kill themselves or others, commit other crimes, get admitted to a psychiatric hospital or do anything else that popular belief suggests," the Associated Press (reassuringly) reports. Emory University's Scott Lilienfeld finds the evidences of a connection between the moon and psychosis "pretty much a big mound of nothing, as far as I can tell." Phew. Threat level: negligible
Will the Supermoon break open the Earth? Another theory out there: the tidal effects of a closer-than-normal moon put added stress on the Earth's fault lines, increasing the chance of an earthquake. We can see why people buy into this idea. After all, the 2004 tsunami off the coast of Indonesia and the 2011 tsunami near Japan both occurred around supermoons. But humans are fantastic at finding and clinging to unsubstantiated patterns. As the U.S. Geological Survey sums up for us, "[m]any studies in the past have shown no significant correlations between the rate of earthquake occurrence and the semi-diurnal tides when using large earthquake catalogs." The scientific consensus seem that there's no connection between major earthquakes and the moon, though the USGS does hedge by adding that there's a "a very tiny probability" of the tidal flexing of the Earth's crust and oceans causing small quakes. Threat level: low
Will the Supermoon sink your large vessel? Another curious consequence of the slightly higher tides during a bright supermoon: icebergs! "An ultrarare alignment of the sun, the full moon, and Earth, they say, may have set the April 14, 1912, tragedy in motion," according to National Geographic. What tragedy is that? Um ever heard of the RMS Titanic? April 14 was a famously moonless night (making iceberg spotting and passenger recovery in the Atlantic difficult), but a supermoon three months earlier "may have created unusually strong tides that sent a flotilla of icebergs southward—just in time for Titanic's maiden voyage." Not every scientist interviewed by the magazine was convinced that the 1912 supermoon created an particularly high tide, but it makes us wonder if now is an especially inauspicious time to commission a Titanic II. Threat level: high, only when you tempt the ocean gods like the builder of the new Titanic, Clive Palmer
Will the Supermoon blow up your Internet? Remember the supermoon from last year? If not, scroll way back on your Twitter or Facebook feeds, because on the night of March 19 much of the Internet collectively craned its neck to the sky to comment on and take pictures of the supermoon. Astronomical events really are bonding experiences in this online age. We should note: to those tempted to snap a picture of the big moon with your iPhone, restrain yourself because no matter how close the moon is to us your photo will not come out good and, frankly, we don't want to see your lousy pics in our social media. Leave astronomical photography to the professionals. Threat level: very high
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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