MV Blog


Full moon funnies

by Meg
Publish date
16 April 2014
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Last month I was asked if the museum experienced a spike in the number of “unusual” (read “weird”) enquiries during a full moon. My initial reaction was to dismiss this theory as light-hearted superstition – then I stopped to think on it for a bit… and my subsequent reaction was to dismiss this theory as light-hearted superstition. However I also resolved to undertake a simple survey of the enquiries database to see what the cold hard stats had to say about it.


Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background. Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background.
Source: NASA

The “lunar effect” phenomenon – the belief that the lunar cycle influences human behaviour – remains a significant feature of some human cultures, present as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and even earlier, through to modern adherents to the Wiccan tradition, or Neo-Paganism more broadly.

It has long been suspected that the moon and its phases have an effect on mental health – indeed the term “lunatic” is derived from the Latin lunaticus, “of the moon.” Lunar effect mythologies include, for example, lycanthropy (werewolves), increased fertility and birth rate, and weather events and natural disasters, among others.

So what of the lunar effect on museum enquiries?

On each of the four full moons so far this year Discovery Centres took an average of 22 new enquiries for the day, of which one, or two at the very most, might be broadly categorized as unusual. On the full moon of January 16, we received a comment about one passenger’s recollection of a man-overboard incident that occurred during his migration to Australia on board the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, and a question about the significance of the role of thongs (what???) in nineteenth-century Victorian construction. Meanwhile, during the full moon of March 17 we were contacted for advice by the concerned owner of a French bulldog who had been the unfortunate victim of a scorpion attack in the bad ‘burbs of Adelaide. Outside of these, the rest of the enquiries were pretty standard fare: image requests, spider identifications, tractor donations, etc…

On the full moon of February 15, however, we did receive three [spam] emails in a row offering heavily discounted supplies of Viagra – suggests there may be some truth to the fertility claims?  

Supermoon .. or not?

by Tanya
Publish date
23 June 2013
Comments (1)

There has been a lot of media attention about tonight's supermoon, but what's the real story?

The supermoon is really called a perigee moon. It's when the full moon occurs at perigee and the Moon is closest to us, on its orbit around the Earth.

perigee moon When the full moon occurs at perigee it is about 50,000km closer to us than an apogee moon.
Source: NASA

Ten years ago, NASA wrote one of the first blogs on the perigee moon, with the headline “But will anyone notice?” Two years ago, in 2011, the perigee moon was at its closest in almost 20 years. That's a pretty neat fact and NASA called it the super perigee Moon.

Well, since then it has taken off and now every perigee moon is earning the title of supermoon. 

perigee vs apogee moons A full moon at perigee can be 14% bigger than a full moon at apogee, but it's only easy to see the difference when the moons are side-by-side.
Source: NASA

The statistics sound amazing, over 10% bigger, almost 30% brighter, but that's in comparison to an apogee moon, which occurs when the full moon is furthest away from Earth. In truth, it’s not really enough to notice. Especially when you consider that most full moons across the year occur somewhere between these two extremes.

So by all means, go out and marvel at the magnificent full moon as it rises tonight at sunset and have a think about our place in the Universe – now that's what I call super!


ABC News: "Supermoon appears in Australian skies, bringing king tide"

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.