Monday, November 14, 2016

It's Pretty Big... I Guess

Yesterday astronomers around the world were all in a tizzy over the so-called "Super Moon," the brightest one in sixty eight years.

See, due to our moon's elliptical orbit, its distance from the Earth varies, from 221,500 miles at perigee, to 252,700 miles at apogee.

Occasionally the moon will be in its full phase during its closest approach, which results in the Super Moon. The last such occurrence was in 1948, and it won't happen again until 2034.

NASA was positively beside itself all week, trumpeting that this would be the most amazing celestial phenomenon in the history of astronomy. They went on and on about how Sunday night the moon would appear a whopping 14% larger in the sky, and a jaw-dropping 30% brighter.

The way they and every other news outlet went on about it, you'd think the moon was going to swell to the size of Jupiter and fill up half the sky as it loomed ominously over us. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. When you actually go outside and look at it, you quickly realize that a 14% increase is barely perceptible to the naked eye, and isn't all that impressive. It's certainly not worth freezing your ass off to gaze at it in the cold night air.

And 30% brighter? Meh. That's even less remarkable. Apparently astronomers are an easily impressed lot.

As always, the Simpsons summed up the situation best.

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