On Sunday August 10, join Slooh and citizen scientists as they observe the Super Moon.
Don’t miss a live interview (Sunday at 7:30 ET) with SciStarter’s founder Darlene Cavalier on Slooh, the telescope and astronomy website devoted to stars and the cosmos.
There is a tendency to prefix anything dramatic, unusual or super with…well, the prefix ‘super,’ which is partly why the Moon is called super twice more this year. Let me explain. When a new Moon coincides with the closest approach the Moon has on its elliptical path to the Earth (because of this the Moon’s orbit typically varies between about 222,000 miles and 252,000 miles from the Earth), it actually appears from 7 to 30 percent larger and brighter, especially when it’s close to the horizon. That happens on the 10th of August—tomorrow—and again on the 9th of September 2014. Slooh will be broadcasting live coverage of the event.
The term ‘super moon’ is not used in professional astronomical circles, but rather has its roots in modern astrology—the high tides created at this time are believed by some to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and it has actually been blamed for sinking the Titanic (although there has not been any evidence to support this), and for the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
What’s so super about the Moon this weekend? The perigee (that’s what astronomers call it) will coincide with meteor showers. Named Perseid, it is possible to see as many as 100 shooting stars every hour; probably peaking between August 10 and August 13, with the best time to view the shower at about 2 am.
It’s not only a super opportunity for photographers (capturing something in silhouette against the horizon because that gives some form of reference) but also for citizen scientists. Here are a few projects that you could choose from:
- Moon Mappers helps scientists understand the lunar surface. Participate in this cosmoquest as you mark craters and flag interesting images for followup, help correct algorithms and compare your mapping skills with others.
- Help the American Meteor Society log fireball meteors with a smartphone app. Sensors in the phone provide an accurate means to record the location of the observation as well as the azimuth and elevation values for the start and end points of the meteor.
- Meteor Counter is an iPhone app that allows you to capture meteor observations with an innovative “piano key” interface. As you tap the keys, Meteor Counter records critical data for each meteor: time, magnitude, latitude, and longitude, along with optional verbal annotations.
- NASA needs your help to monitor the rates and sizes of large meteoroids striking the moon’s dark side with their Lunar Impact Monitoring project. By monitoring the moon for impacts, NASA can define the meteoroid environment and identify the risks that meteors pose to future lunar exploration. This data will help engineers design lunar spacecraft, habitats, vehicles, and extra-vehicular activity suits to protect human explorers from the stresses of the lunar environment.
- The MeteoNetwork is an ambitious collaboration in Italy to make scientific data from over 400 weather nationwide stations available in an easy to understand visual interface. You can now join in this groundbreaking work and gain access to loads of real time data. You can even add your own data and share analysis among the many members of the network.
Image credit: NASA
Ian Vorster has a MS in Environmental Communications and most recently served as director of communications at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Prior to that he worked in the health communications field. Ian has served as a designer, writer, photographer, editor and project leader in the field of science, and now works freelance in a blend of these roles. You can see more of Ian’s work at dragonflyec.com.