What's so super about a Super Moon, anyway?

It's a lunar spectacle that occurs when the moon's orbit is closest to Earth - a so called Super Moon.

The biggest and brightest Super Moon of the year illuminated the sky over the last two nights.

People around the world looked up, and shared their lunar-gazing pictures on social media. In Wellington, a group got together on a secluded beach for a bout of full moon drumming, to "celebrate [the] full moon and community"

So what's so super about the moon anyway?

A Super Moon is when the moon is at the perigee, or closest point, of its elliptical monthly orbit.

In this case, the moon was a mere 356,761 km from Earth. About 50,000km closer than its farthest orbit in 2019.

One famous astrophysicist thinks the hype over Super Moons is overblown because they're imperceptibly bigger than other full moons.

"Supermoons. An Insult to Superman, Supernovae, Super Colliders, the Super Bowl, Superconductors, Supersonic, and of course Super Mario," Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted.

Is there a man in the moon?

With the slightly-larger-than-usual moon comes myth and folklore: werewolves, witches, and the forgotten belief our lunar friend was a sexual predator.

In parts of Africa, Europe, and Australia, for example, people believed the full moon could create unwanted pregnancies, according to Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich an anthropology professor at Victoria University.

"If young women were let out into the open at a full moon or a Super Moon… the moon would try to have that first sexual intercourse with a young woman," she said.

"That of course was incredibly dangerous.

"So women were not allowed to point at the moon, they were not allowed to look at the moon, and ideally not allowed to leave the house at a full moon."

These beliefs hung around in some places until the 18th century.

Others believe planting, hair and nail cuts should be timed to coincide with the moon’s phases.

"It’s insane," said Haritina Mogoșanu a science communicator at Wellington’s Space Place.

The moon did not affect biology on Earth, she said, and there were no published, peer-reviewed scientific papers saying otherwise.

"It's insane how people believe in these kind of things that have no relevance to science," she said.

While some ancient thinking, such as the zodiac calendar were useful markers of time, other aspects came from a developing understanding of the world, she said.

"People didn't have the science from today," she said.

"They didn't even know what planets were - they thought planets were gods"

They were written by people with a scientific education equivalent to "someone who goes to kindergarten [today]" she said.

There was no proof it affected behaviour either.

A spokesperson for the police said, "While we're aware there is a perceived correlation between the full moon and peoples' behaviour, Police is unable to offer any conclusive evidence at this time."

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The biggest and brightest super moon of the year illuminated the sky this week. Source: 1 NEWS