Touching the moon

The moon's path took it closer to Earth than it has been for 19 years, reminding us of the enduring symbolism it has for the region.

In the four decades since Eugene "Geno" Cernan, the crew commander of Apollo 17, took his last steps on the moon in December 1972, it has often seemed that mankind's interest in conquering our nearest heavenly body is on the wane. The moon, however, is not quite finished with us just yet.

Last night the moon reached its closest point to Earth for 19 years - since January 19, 1992 - in a phenomenon that scientists have dubbed a "super moon", although you needed to be quite sharp to spot the 0.3 per cent difference. As often happens with such occurrences, proclamations on the effects of the moon on Earth and its inhabitants, both humans and animals, ranged from the reasonable to the paranoid.

Many claims are laughable, some have genuine scientific merit and others are nothing more than coincidences.

In the Middle East, the moon has a special symbolism, adorning flags and sitting astride minarets. Even the important holidays of Islam are governed by its phases.

This super moon had many with their eyes glued to their telescopes last night. It was a reminder that the moon's celestial presence has illuminated the course of human events even if we haven't visited for a while.