How Space & Science Played a Part in Sinking the Titanic

by / Saturday, 14 April 2012 / Published in Blog - Space Log

Today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, a ship that cost so much and was so carefully constructed that no one even believed what happened would have been possible. The ship bumped into an iceberg, but some scientists are now throwing around some different ideas about why exactly this happened.

One group of researchers from Texas State University and Sky & Telescope magazine blame some strange space orbits for the disaster. They say that on that fateful night, Earth was uncharacteristically close to the Moon and the Sun, closer than it had been been in more than 1,000 years. The scientists believe this enhanced the gravitational pulls on the ocean. This could have been the cause for the record tides that help explain why the Titanic ran into so much ice in the water, including the iceberg that caused it to sink.

The other research, carried out by an astronomer and mirage specialist from San Diego State University claims that the icy waters made it difficult to see icebergs from the lookout deck and it suggests that this is also why the rescue efforts took longer because another nearby ship was confused about the Titanic’s identity. You might have heard of a mirage as something that happens in the desert. These types of mirages happen when hot air near the Earth’s surface bends light rays upward, causing lost travelers to think patches of blue sky are actually pools of water.

Another kind of mirage happens when cold air bends light rays downward and people see objects and settings that are actually far away over the horizon. The images look distorted, sort of like looking into a funhouse mirror.

Both of these groups of scientists are still performing their studies and looking for clues that might help us understand once and for all what actually caused everything that happened on that night 100 years ago.