By Richard A. Lovett - National Geographic News
Just weeks before the Titanic shipwreck's hundredth anniversary, scientists have a brand-new theory as to what might have helped spur modern history's most famous maritime disaster.
An ultrarare alignment of the sun, the full moon, and Earth, they say, may have set the April 14, 1912, tragedy in motion, according to a new report.
R.M.S. Titanic went down on a moonless night, but the iceberg that sank the luxury liner may have been launched in part by a full moon that occurred three and a half months earlier, scientists say.
That full moon, on January 4, 1912, may have created unusually strong tides that sent a flotilla of icebergs southward—just in time for Titanic's maiden voyage, said astronomer Donald Olson of Texas State University-San Marcos.
Even at the time, spring 1912 was considered an unusually bad season for icebergs. But figuring out why this happened has been a mystery.
Olson believes the iceberg boom was the result of a rare combination of celestial phenomena, including a "supermoon": when the moon is full during its closest monthly approach to the Earth.