The fate of the Titanic may have been written in the heavens due to an astonishing set of celestial coincidences, according to a new theory.
A rare conjunction of the Moon and Sun caused icebergs to be swept into the path of the doomed Belfast-built liner, scientists believe. The “once-in-many-lifetimes” event brought together the Moon's closest approach to the Earth for 1,400 years, a near encounter between the Earth and the Sun, and a spring tide.
All these factors contributed to abnormally high sea levels which helped dislodge grounded icebergs and send them into the North Atlantic, it is claimed.
Preparations are now under way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the disaster on Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
An investigation by US scientists at Texas State University — reported in Sky & Telescope magazine — may now have discovered why the ship’s route was littered with so many icebergs.
“Of course, the ultimate cause of the accident was that the ship struck an iceberg,” said lead researcher Dr Donald Olson. “The Titanic failed to slow down, even after having received wireless messages warning of ice ahead.
“They went full speed into a region with icebergs — that's really what sank the ship, but the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of Titanic.”
Titanic's fate might have been sealed four months earlier on January 4 when there was a full Moon and spring tide. During a spring tide the Sun and Moon line up and the combined effect of their gravity causes sea levels to rise exceptionally high.
Titanic, which was said to be “unsinkable”, struck an iceberg 375 miles south of Newfoundland on the night of April 14, 1912. Within hours the vessel had sunk without trace with the loss of 1,500 lives. Later it emerged that the Titanic had steamed at full speed into an area littered with icebergs despite warnings.