Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s a supermoon.
Astronomers and Physics applicants have been enjoying this week’s lunar activity as the moon will be at its “perigee” or closest point to the earth over the weekend. The bbc reported, however, on the debate surrounding this so called “supermoon”. As Dr Massey points out, “the definition is to some extent a moveable feast compared with an eclipse, where the timing can be measured precisely.”
What is particularly exciting is that this movement of the moon closer to the earth coincides with an eclipse. This lunar eclipse gives the moon a rust colour – hence the name “blood moon”. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red light, and it is this red light that reaches the lunar surface Archaeology and Anthropology applicants may wish to explore the importance of the moon in various cultures, particularly the Incas.
Earth Sciences and Geography applicants may wish to think about how the earth’s orbit tells us more about the make up of the planet itself. Dr Massey notes that the moon may appear up to 7-8% bigger, not to be confused, however, with a moon illusion. Natural Sciences (Physical) applicants may want to think about how this illusion works and indeed other real world applications of these phenomena.
All this astronomical excitement comes in a week where NASA has made the stunning announcement that it believes liquid water to be present on Mars today. Scientists identified waterlogged molecules — salts of a type known as perchlorates — on the surface in readings from orbit, indicating the presence of water. Such news clearly ties in with last week’s story on the discovery of a potentially habitable exoplanet, and the likelihood of finding life elsewhere in the universe.