By Troy Carter
CAIRO: On Saturday evening, the moon will be 356,577km away from Earth, the closest it’s been in 18.6 years – a phenomenon called supermoon that results in a 14 percent increase in the moon’s appearance.
Some astrologers argue for a connection between the supermoon and natural disasters. Astronomers and physicists dismiss astrology as pseudo-science. But with the occurrence of a 8.9-earthquake in Japan that triggered a tsunami and numerous aftershocks just last week, the old debate is reignited.
The American University in Cairo will host a supermoon lecture on Saturday at 6 pm, followed by a telescopic observation at the downtown campus. It will be in Arabic and open to public.
Dr. Alaa Ibrahim, an award winning Astrophysicist and current professor of space astrophysics and physics at AUC, told Daily News Egypt that supermoon doesn’t cause earthquakes or other natural disasters on Earth. The moon, however, exercises a gravitation pull on the ocean tides. Lunar gravity also changes the Earth’s atmospheric pressure.
Yet, “the assertion that the moon’s position caused the catastrophe in Japan is not warranted and needs to be critically examined. There are scientists investigating the relationship as we speak and it’s too early to make any claims,” he explained.
The moon exercises a minor gravitational pull on the molten lava beneath the earth’s crust but it does not have the energy to cause volcanic eruptions, Ibrahim said.
Earthquakes, he added, occur when stress overwhelms the massive plates that form the earth’s crust, their realignment causes the quakes. If the earth has already built a high level on internal stress an event like a supermoon may only act as a trigger, but a full scientific investigation is needed.
Saturday’s lecture will be in Arabic and open to public. On Sunday the same lecture will be given in English at 1:30 pm followed by a 7:30 pm observation at AUC’s New Cairo campus.