Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Earth’s satellite to appear larger and brighter on Saturday

GEORGE TOWN: This Saturday, the moon will swing around Earth more closely than it has in the past 18 years, lighting up the night sky from just 356,577km away.

The full moon will appear bigger and brighter – but there is “no scientific ground” for panic.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Astronomy Club academic adviser Assoc Prof Dr Chong Hon Yew said the moon would look larger than normal as it will be closer to the Earth.

“Scientifically, there is no such thing as a ‘super moon’ but on March 19, you will see a bigger full moon because it’s a lunar perigee (when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth).

“Saturn will also be visible to the naked eye on that night. What is rare is that there will also be a planetary alignment on that day,” he said yesterday.

Dr Chong said a planetary alignment did not mean that all the planets were in a straight line.

“Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune will be very close to the sun within a 50° angle and this qualifies as a planetary alignment – it’s impossible for all the planets to be in a straight line.”

He, however, said the planetary alignment would not be visible because it would be in the daytime sky.

A recent online article had claimed that “chaos would ensue” with huge storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters expected to wreak havoc on Earth.

Dr Chong said the planets’ gravity effect on Earth was “negligible” compared to the effect of the moon and sun’s gravity.

Geocosmic Centre for Yi Jing Metascience Research Malaysia consultant and I-Ching (the Book of Change) expert Dr Chuah Chong Cheng said that even if something bad were to happen on Saturday, it would be ridiculous to blame it on the moon.

“Saturday is the 15th day of the second month of the Chinese lunar calendar and on March 15, or the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC,” said Dr Chuah.