Saturday, March 19 witnessed a full moon at its closest distance to earth, a phenomena that occurs once every 18 years.
A telescope observation session was held on the same day at 6 p.m. at the Tahrir Campus in the Falaki Academic Center’s Oriental Hall. The next day, Dr. Alaa Ibrahim – a visiting assistant professor of physics – gave a lecture entitled “The Science Behind Super-Moons and Tsunamis.” Another telescope observation session was held that evening at 7:30 p.m. from the Library Garden in the new campus.
“I’m interested in astronomy and in knowing how things from space affect the earth. I’ve never used a telescope before so it’s worth coming even though I have a midterm tomorrow,” said Reem Emam, a student majoring in psychology who read about the event on Blackboard.
“A full moon occurs because the orbit of the moon around the earth occurs in an eclipse that shifts every year and at one moment the moon became very close,” explained Doctor Ibrahim. He added that the closest distance happened yesterday (March 19),” and that “the best time to look at the moon is when it’s near the horizon.”
Dr. Ibrahim explained that the purpose of the session was to answer questions like: What is the science behind the Super Moon? Why it doesn’t happen every day? What are its effects? And most importantly, whether or not the super moon or the full moon lead to natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. Ibrahim played a video during the session entitled “Super Full Moon” which explained that two Super- Moons have occurred – one on March 28 in 1983 and another in Dec. 2008 – without causing natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. He added that a super moon is 14 per- cent larger in size than a normal moon, 30 percent brighter and leads to tides 10 centimeters higher than normal tides. Dr. Ibrahim showed another two videos both depicting the processes that take place before a tsunami occurs. In response to the natural disasters and the recent earthquake that happened in Japan killing several thousands, scientists are putting sensors on the sea floor in an effort to detect the rise of the sea before a tsunami.
These sensors send signals on satellites, enabling governments to send out early warnings a couple of hours before the tsunami. Dr. Ibrahim concluded the session by asking the attendants whether they believed that the Apollo landing on the moon was fictional or real. The question resulted in a de- bate during which Ibrahim disagreed with a student who said he thought the moon landing was fake. “The landing on the moon happened at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Russia.,” Ibrahim argued. “At the time, the Russians (who had reason to discredit the United States) didn’t say anything against the moon landing.
“The Apollo team left something tangible until today which is a special mirror on the surface of the moon that can bounce back to earth a beam of laser which can be viewed with a telescope.” Sarah El-Tawansy, the wife of Dr. Sherif Aly – a computer science professor at AUC – was an audience member who came with her family.
“All the information was important but the most important one was the fact the Apollo landed on the moon,” she said.
Leila Saad El-Din, a 12th grader at BBC school, had come earlier for admission and decided to stay for the event. Saad El-Din said that the session was informative, adding that she hadn’t known that the moon got close to earth once every 18 years or that the moon did not cause tsunamis.