Saturday, May 5, 2012

Supermoon


I guess one of the more fun things about being an authority on something, or an astrophysicist in general, is wrecking everyone's good time as they get all crazy after reading articles like SUPERMOON CAUSED TSUNAMI.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (NDG) has had it with supermoon bullshit, and suggests that everyone view the moon through a straw tonight if they think it's so huge.  Apparently, after viewing the whole form through the tiny, bendy telescope, the hope is that people will then refrain from posting something tagged #supermoon on Twitter, and further agitating the man.

As evidenced by a number of testy blog posts, astronomers would prefer we used the term "lunar perigee".  Probably, I guess, because it is the actual term for where the moon is at now.  The moon's path around the earth is elliptical, so sometimes it's closer to the earth (perigee), and sometimes it's farther away (apogee).  When the moon is both full and at perigee, it looks larger than usual, and thus it is the SUPERMOON.

As if it weren't enough to debunk the insinuation that lunar perigee makes tides, volcanoes and animals go craxy (the moon was not at lunar perigee during last year's tsunami, and the theory in the Daily Mail article is dismissed as pseudoscience), NDG goes on to confront moon photographers, suggesting that they photograph the moon without a zoom and see how rad it looks then (not very).  He describes full lunar perigee as an 8" pizza as compared to a 7" (full moon at lunar apogee).  He wants to get through to the American people as quickly and easily as possible = pizza analogy.  Why you gotta hate, Neil?  Stupidity at every turn is the price you pay when people become interested in a new thing.  If you want people to care about the moon and stars, you have to hook them with some kind of crazy end of days drama, otherwise they don't give a shit.  Is the moon going to kill Earth?  Does its position in the sky at the time of my birth tell crucial details about my personality?  No?  Then get out of the way of the tv.

I understand the frustration of the astronomers.  It's discomforting to know a lot about something, and then have to watch a bunch of half-informed idiots talking about it.  This was how I felt while watching other students make presentations about Sylvia Plath and James Leo Herlihy in a literature class.  "Um, no?"  I'm not really saying that I am the NDG of subversive 20th century American literature, but I'm working on it, and what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in poor temperament.  And that has to count for something.

I will be photographing the supermoon with my regular zoom tonight to test his theory.  Here is a crazy post on the Maddow blog about how best to calculate when to photograph the moon.  Summary: after the sun has set, but before its light has left the sky, and before the moon has risen too high.  So I'm going to say about 7:30-7:45 for MST.



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