Supermoon: what it is, and what it definitely isn’t (a repost)

A repost, apropos of this weekend’s supermoon and the fact that people are going bugnut over it… yet again… and Taslima seemed lonely in being the only other FtBer covering this one. My original post is here, published March 17, 2011.

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a SUPERMOOOOOOON!!

I have written at some length about the moon, with its wobble called libration, and how its elliptical orbit means that it varies in its distance to us between roughly 360,000km and 406,000km. That’s a difference of ~46,000km, or about ten percent of its distance at apogee. Apogee is what you call the moon’s furthest point in its orbit, and perigee the closest. As the moon orbits us about once a month (thus the lunar cycle), that means that during a predicted perigee, the moon is about two weeks away from apogee.
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The Birth of the Moon

An intriguing documentary has caught my eye with its slick teaser trailer.

We like the moon. Because it is close to us.

I can’t wait to see this doc when it’s out. I’ve had a long-standing love affair with the moon and its effects on our planet. I’ve posted quite a bit about it in the past, a number of times in fact.

Apparently, Cosmic Journeys has a number of such documentaries online, each about half an hour minus commercial time, making it ripe for syndication to a real network. Why nobody’s picked this up to fill a time slot somewhere is completely beyond me. They’re slickly produced, engaging, have an excellent narrator, and are completely free. And they’re about one of the most engaging and important topics we as humans could ever study: the universe itself, on a macroscopic scale far beyond our transient and provincial lives.

Newt’s new windmill: a moon base by 2020

That’s right, Newt Gingrich wants a permanent American-controlled moon base by the end of his second term in office. Don’t worry Republicans, he’s not suggesting, you know, actual funding by the government or anything — just that private enterprise will, somehow, for some inexplicable reason, become motivated to find ways to do it.

Speaking in Florida, hit hard by the loss of a large number of space-affiliated jobs, Mr. Gingrich said Wednesday that if elected, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”

He said he believed such a project was possible with commercial and private efforts. According to USA Today, Mr. Gingrich said he had “a romantic belief it is really part of our destiny,” adding that the current state of the space program was a “tragedy.”

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