Super Moon Snow, the brightest moon of the year

Today we will have the brightest moon of the year, the Full Snow Supermoon. Moonrise will be the best time for those interested in capturing dramatic supermoon photos because the moon will be closest to the horizon. Today’s Supermoon marks a big difference from 2018, when there was no full moon in February -- called a Black Moon.
Supermoon full Moon
Image 1. Supermoon

What is a Supermoon?

The Supermoon is a full Moon that looks bigger than normal Moons. The reason is because the orbit of the Moon is a tilted eccentric ellipse (Image 2). Because of the eccentricity, there are 2 defining distances; one distance known as Apogee (when the moon is furthest from Earth), and one known as Perigee (when the moon is closes to Earth). The Supermoon occurs when the full Moon coincides with the Perigee.
Apogee and Pedigee moon distance
Image 2. Orbit of the Moon

Why Snow moon?

Native Americans and Europeans used to give names to the full moons of different months based on the local characteristics of such month. For instance, February’s full moon used to be referred as Snow Moon because of the heavy snowfalls that occur in February in the northern hemisphere. The table summarizes the names of the Moon according to different months.

Month Name Note
January Full Wolf Moon Wolves tend to howl more at this time
February Full Snow Moon The heaviest snowfalls use to fall in february
March Full Worm Moon The ground softens and earthworm casts reappear
April Full Pink Moon The first spring flores begin to appear
May Full Flower Moon Flowers spring forth in abundance
June Full Strawberry Moon Is the time to gather ripening strawberries
July Full Buck Moon Buck's antlers are in full growth mode
August Full Sturgeon Moon The sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught 
September Full Corn Moon It is the time of harvesting corn
October Full Hunter's Moon The time when natives begin to hunt and store provisions for winter
November Full Beaver Moon It was the time to set beavers traps
December Full Cold Moon It is the time when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark

Additional reading:

Highest and lowest gold price

Who defines gold price?

The London Bullion Market Association the only gold bullion market accreditation accepted across the globe; hence, it defines the gold price. Since 2015 the ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA) implemented an electronic auction system called the LBMA Gold Price.
gold price

Twice daily, at 10:30 AM and 3:00 PM UK Time, the IBA publishes the LBMA Gold Price in US dollars, which serves as a benchmark price for gold producers, investors, consumers, and central banks worldwide. The price of gold is adjusted in real-time based on financial evaluations of anonymous auction rounds run every 45 seconds. When all buy and sell orders and imbalances are within 20,000 troy ounces, the price is fixed.

What was the highest gold price ever?

The image shows a timeline of the gold price variations since 1915. We can identify periods with steep price rise, but also periods with severe price drops. The highest gold price ever recorded occurred in January 1980, when gold reached a peak price of 2 115 $ per ounce. The second highest peak was recorded in September 2011 with a price of 1 939 $ per ounce.
highest gold price and lowest gold price
Image 1. Historical gold price chart (Source: Macrotrends)

The lowest gold price occurred in December 1970 with a price of 230 $ per ounce. Another low price occurred in June 1920 with a price of 247 $ per ounce.

What defines gold price?

Gold price depends on several factors; not only gold volume or gold demand, but also socio-polital factors have a heavy influence in gold price. For instance, we can see that the rises and drops are related to moments of international wars (e.g. the drop in 1940 during WW II), new presidential administrations or even big sport events.

The only thing we have for sure is that gold is a very valuable metal for multiple reasons that were explained in previous post (see why gold is so valuable).

Additional reading:

2018 Nature's top 10 scientific news

2018 is about to end and we are flooded with summaries: 2018 sports summary, 2018 news summary etc. Nature magazine has published an online audio-visual its top 10 scientific news of 2018 with short explanatory videos and podcasts (link to article). This post presents a summary of the Nature’s top 10, and a respective link to the article.

2018 Nature Top 10 science news

  • The maser goes mainstream. Diamond microwave lasers. A MASER (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) are concentrated beams of energy, similar to lasers (Actually maser was invented before laser), with the difference that masers are based on energy rather than light. This difference provides maser with the unique ability to penetrate cloud cover, living tissue, and other solid materials undisturbed.
  • The mysterious death of the Baobab trees. Baobab trees are the iconic millennial trees of Africa. These trees have been around for thousands of years. However, it was discovered that baobab trees are dying.
  • The tale of the Edith's checkerspot: Butterflies caught in an evolutionary trap. The Edith's checkerspot butterflies from Nevada are experiencing a rapid local extinction due to an evolutionary trap very sensitive to human activities. 
  • Rats versus reefs. Rats have decimated bird populations on certain islands in the Chagos Archipelago. This lack of birds means a lack of fertilising guano, which has not only affected plant life, but the health of surrounding coral reefs as well.
  • Blood, rats and anticoagulants. The story of warfarin. All the anticoagulants are based on warfarin. Few people know that warfarin was developed as rat poison. It may be important to review the history of warfarin.
  • Meet the computer chemist. Computer science has developed an AI-based chemistry robot that is able to perform experiments and search for new reactions.
  • The secret physics of dandelion seeds. Scientists have studied the fluid dynamics of air flow around the seed and discovered a completely new type of flight based on a previously unknown kind of vortex.
  • Nobel laureate Donna Strickland talks lasers and gender. A summary of the laser research that led to the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 55 years. 
  • Ion drive: The first flight. A plane powered by an ‘ion drive’ flew for the first time. The drive uses high powered electrodes to ionise and accelerate air particles, creating an ‘ionic wind’. This may be the first step for silent drones and silent planes.
  • The American opioid crisis. Mathematical modelling is being applied to the current opiod crisis in America.