Saturday, April 14, 2012

Did the Moon Sink Titanic?

Hey Space Placers!

We take on a nautical flavor today, April 14, 2012, as tonight at will mark the 100th anniversary of RMS Titanic hitting an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. local time and sinking less than 3 hours later with the loss of 1500 lives.

Last night I watched the National Geographic Special that had James Cameron and a panel of experts put together a forensic examination of the great ship's sinking. It was fascinating to watch and I learned much.

There are astronomical aspects to the sinking of Titanic that have come forward on the 100th anniversary and they involve the Moon.

Titanic and iceberg

Courtesy of Sky and Telescope/Donald W. Olson

First and foremost, there was no Moon to illuminate the calm sea and help the lookouts and watch officers see icebergs. These crew members also had no binoculars or optical aid to help them scan the horizon as they had been left behind accidentally on the ship's maiden voyage. I can tell you from personal experience that to not have binoculars while on watch aboard a ship is leaving you blind - especially on a moon-less night.

The other Moon-Titanic aspect involves the Moon's tidal influence on the icebergs. A serious study of the timeframe involved revealed that the Earth-Moon-Sun alignment in place could have produced very high tides that could have refloated grounded icebergs and put them in the shipping lanes and ultimate path of the Titanic.

And if you happen to be outside at 11:40 p.m. or after 2:30 a.m. on the 15th, take a look at the sky. The stars will be essentially the same except for some latitude variations and the planets present. But the stars will be the same as they were 100 years ago as the survivors and those killed saw them. 

Sky Guy in VA

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