BY BARBARA MANINGAT
Devastation in Japan is making headlines around the world as the country recovers from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that sent a tsunami crashing over the mainland. Some say it's a tragic natural disaster, but some are wondering -- Is the moon to blame? (Video from ABC)
On March 19th, the moon's orbit will be 221-thousand miles from Earth -- the closest it's been in 19 years.
It's called the supermoon, a term coined by Richard Nolle for when the moon's orbit is nearest Earth - and the sun, moon and earth are all in alignment. That means the gravitational pulls of the moon and the sun combine to cause higher tides. (Video from Perigee-Syzygy)
This kind of alignment only happens every 10 to 20 years -- so when it does, KGTV says we notice.
"There is a precedent. The deadly tsunami in Indonesia happened two weeks before the 2005 supermoon ... Still and cyclone Tracy laid waste to supermoon year of 1974. There were also extreme weather events in the supermoon years of 1955 and 1992. ... However, most astronomers say this is just coincidence."
Talk of the supermoon began weeks before the earthquake hit Japan and one AccuWeather blogger says he didn't believe it. But now, he's been convinced.
"I believe that the Earth may have already felt some of the supermoon's effects. It could be a huge coincidence that this earthquake was not influenced by the supermoon. But in my totally unscientific opinion, having no hard evidence to back it up, it doesn't seem like just coincidence to me."
A blogger for Discover says -- there's no way the moon caused the earthquake in Japan.
"When the earthquake in Japan hit... the moon was about 240,000 miles away. So not only was it not at its closest point, it was actually farther away than it usually is on average. The earthquake in Japan - and other natural disasters likely to happen ... are terrible tragedies. We're not making it any better by panicking over something we know isn't real."
Most astronomers say any gravitational effects typically happen within three days of the supermoon, but Nolle tells ABC Melbourne, the time span can be longer.
NOLLE: "...[W]e don't have to have one at the maximum close approach to have a notable affect. For example, the February 18th supermoon just passed. That one was in effect for various reasons from the twelfth of February through the twenty-first and, of course, we had the awful Christchurch earthquake on the twenty-first."
A TG Daily blogger still doesn't buy into the moon phenomenon and says the special supermoon alignment will only make for a great photo.
"Indeed, because it's a full moon, the sun and moon are actually pulling on the earth from opposite directions, weakening rather than strengthening tides. So just sit back and appreciate the view."
With March 19 fast-approaching, is more destruction to come? Or, will the supermoon just make for an interesting picture?
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