The Supermoon of September 27 – 28

The super full moon lunar eclipse occurred in the constellation of Pisces. Much has been said about this SuperMoon in parenthesis with the Tetrad, Wave X, the recent Equinox and the solar eclipse of September. Many speak of how the SuperMoon will herald destructive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, severe storms and extreme tidal surges. While there is a potential for this to happen every time there’s a SuperMoon, typically within plus or minus three days of the exact alignment, some apocalyptic debunking is needed.

A SuperMoon is astronomical in scale. It’s a new or full moon that closely coincides with the Moon’s perigee (the point in the lunar orbit when Luna makes its closest approach to Earth). Involving the Earth, Moon and Sun in this particular alignment is momentous enough that it rings our home planet like a bell, so to speak. In other words, it’s planet-wide in potential.(And no matter where you live, that huge SuperMoon full moon rising in the east at sunset is an awesome sight to see.)

Graphic on Lunar Eclipse

Enter the tetrad: a rare event?

This latest event marks the fourth lunar eclipse in a row with no partial eclipses to spoil the run. Such a run of eclipses is known as a tetrad. While not uncommon – there have been eight such tetrad eclipses in the 21st century – they are unusual, with none between 1400 to 1900.

What makes this final of the four a little different is that it’s during a super moon. This is when the full moon occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit, thereby appearing about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when furthest from us.

The last time there was a blood super moon (or less poetically: a perigee lunar eclipse) was in 1982, with the next not until January 31, 2018.

Apocalypse when?

But not everyone is looking forward to the event. There are reports from stores in the United States of panic buying in anticipation of the coming lunar eclipse, stockpiling supplies in the fear that this is the apocalypse.

So what is driving this fear of an otherwise natural, albeit particularly uncommon, lunar eclipse?

It seems to come from the fact that the previous lunar eclipses of the tetrad have fallen on dates of significance in the Jewish calendar. But that’s happened before and the world didn’t end then. Another fellow comes with a theory of the Shemitah. Another idea about lunar cycles and the Jewish calendar.

Fuelling all this are two Christian ministers: Mark Blitz, who wrote the bestseller Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs; and John Hagee, who wrote his own bestseller, Four Blood Moons.

NASA scientists say there have been a number of recent blogs and posts online claiming the Earth will be hit by an asteroid between September 15 and 28, the date of the lunar eclipse.

Some predict Asteroids

But Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said there was “no existing evidence” that an asteroid or any other celestial object would hit Earth anytime “over the next century”.

Now the asteroid claim has been dismissed, Blitz has reportedly turned his attention to earthquakes.

High tides and earthquakes

These rumours have clearly frightened some believers, but how much truth is there that a lunar eclipse will trigger a devastating earthquake?

According to the evidence, a categorical “none”, says the British Geological Society, with studies showing the coincidence of earthquakes and the phases of the moon were entirely random.

That the moon has an effect on the Earth is undeniable; we can see that every day with the tides. The Earth itself will be squeezed in the same way, although with a barely noticeable rise as solid rock is less malleable than water.

Along with this Earth-tide, the seabed will also experience changing pressure from the weight of all the water above as the tides rise and fall. That this might be a trigger of earthquakes seems reasonable, and was thought to be so for a century, but the numbers just don’t add up.

Chile’s Big Earthquake

For starters, the difference in the pressure on the rock caused by the tides is less than the normal tectonic forces that the plates experience in their slow migration around the Earth. More definitively, there’s simply no observed link between earthquake severity and the tide maximum.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the only difference between a full moon and the blood moon is that the latter just happens to be passing through the Earth’s shadow and hence turns a spooky colour. Its actual distance from us (and hence apocalypse-inducing force that it could apply) is be the same.

Even though this lunar eclipse is occurring during a super moon the increase in tide height from this closer moon is at most 10 centimetres so hardly an apocalyptic flood.

The 2015 September Supermoon beside a spire of Cologne Cathedral