The outreach program of the Department of Physics at The American University in Cairo welcomed members of the Cairo community to discuss and observe this past weekend’s ‘Supermoon’ phenomenon. The ‘Supermoon’ was a mere 356,577 km away from Earth, the closest it has been in more than 18 years. As a result of its proximity, the moon appeared 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter. In addition to being able to gaze at the moon through advanced telescopes on the AUC campuses in New Cairo and Tahrir Square, AUC Professor Alaa Ibrahim presented two public lectures -“The Science Behind Supermoon and Tsunami.”
Ibrahim explained the phenomenon of the ‘Supermoon’ and refuted misconceptions by some astrologists that there is a relationship between its appearance and catastrophic events - such as the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. "There’s no scientific evidence that links the moon to natural disasters on Earth,” he noted.
Ibrahim explained that the moon exerts a gravitation pull on ocean tides and that this lunar gravity changes the Earth’s atmospheric pressure. He said that the moon actually has an effect on molten lava beneath earth's crust, but added that it is not strong enough to generate events such as earthquakes or volcanoes. “So, the claim that the ‘Supermoon’ phenomenon is the cause of the Tsunami is not warranted,” he emphasized.
Contrary to myth, Ibrahim highlighted the fact that science has proven that in reality, the moon prevents natural disasters by balancing the earth's rotation around its tilted axis, which would otherwise wobble like a top. Additionally, he pointed out that the moon and the event that created it are also credited for the four seasons, the diversity of life on earth, and for enriching earth's surface with natural resources.
The moon was formed 15 million years after the formation of Earth, when a large asteroid about the size of Mars hit the planet. Earth’s rotational orbit was originally vertical. After the impact that formed the moon, the Earth’s axis was tilted by 23.5 degrees.
Ibrahim announced that several other celestial phenomena will be witnessed this season, including a close encounter with planet Saturn. AUC will hold similar lecture and observation events for the community on its two campuses on April 3.