There is a lot of anger in astronomy.
It’s there under the surface, bubbling away like a storm in the lower atmosphere of Jupiter.
Much of it is weather related; the frustration of UK astronomers, of late, is deep and bitter. If clouds could be cleared with hard, angry stares we would be bathed in sunshine and starlight.
Some of it is the endless series of pitfalls and hiccups that beset your nights observation. The scope that refuses to align, the red torch whose battery fails, the dropped and shattered pencil, the dreaded dew descending on your precious lenses.
And I’ve had all those in a single hour.
But nothing seems to catch the anger of stargazers as much as terms like “super-moon”.
“Not that old chestnut again!” Deep sigh, hand to face. Blame the media, get cross at ignorant public for invading our territory with their stupid questions and ham-fisted googled explanations and ridiculous astrological terms. Grrrrrr. Angry face.
But is it all bad? On Saturday night people who would never have given the night sky a second thought stepped outside and gazed up. I know of some people who travelled 90 miles to the coast to try to get a better look. I-phones and cameras were raised heavenwards, people stared and tried to decide exactly what was so “super” while others sought out answers from the “knowledgeable”.
I’ve had three different super-moon conversations and each one was a chance to spread some knowledge and encourage interest in people who normally would never ask.
Astronomy outreach – never a bad thing.
So while I have to admit to being always slightly irked at phrases like Super-moon, I think we should be grateful that it is putting astronomy in the news, getting it noticed and reminding people that there is a universe to be seen out there.
Oh and in-case you are wondering, a “super-moon” is the point where the moon reaches it’s closest to Earth which is really called ‘perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system’ (if you want to be fancy). The great thing is, you can explain to people that the Moon’s orbit is elliptical and not circular and as a result the moon varies in size as seen from Earth- not common knowledge!
It has no special effect (astrologers I’m looking at you…) with the exception of perhaps a mildly higher tide.
Oh and you will not probably notice the difference visually.