Whats coming up in the skies this month?

Taken from the blog of Toni Mccoy @ www.tonimccoy.com, with permission might I add!  We are hoping to get a monthly insight into the skies and what we might see/whats happening each month.

The first day of the month greets us with a supermoon! It’s not going to be quite as good as the one we seen on May 5th, where it was only a distance of 356,953 kilometers away – It also happened to be our wedding day so it was a spectacular backdrop, making the day even more special!

This time, the moon will be at a distance of 362,361 kilometers away, which is still one of the closest we will see this year. According to my sources the moon should rise at about 7.30pm and set around 2.20am, which is perfect timing for viewing. You should be able to see about 82% of the moon’s surface.

As you probably have guessed, the word supermoon is a general term for a moon that is at its perigee (closest to earth during it’s monthly orbit). When the moon is furthest from earth it is known as a lunar apogee. The moon generally looks about 15% larger and 30% brighter when it is at its perigee compared to its apogee. The moon also looks larger when it is rising and setting, however this is just an optical illusion and appears larger because it is lower down in the sky and we have surrounding objects – such a houses – in comparison. Therefore, with the right atmospheric conditions, when a full moon occurs during a lunar perigee, the moon will look spectacular as it rises or sets.

On July 3rd we’ll see a full moon. The moons surface is only 100% visible for about 3 or 4 minutes, but because of how far away the moon is from us it will appear to be a full moon for around three days.

On the 5th, the earth will reach aphelion*. This occurs yearly in July when the Earth and the sun are at their furthest distance away from each other. Converse to this, the sun will be closest to Earth in January. This is called perihelion . The sun will rise at roughly 4.35am and will set around 9.45pm.

*If you don’t know much about aphelion and perihelion, and are most likely wondering why it’s so cold in the winter when we’re closer to the sun, read on to the notes at the bottom of this blog entry.

On July 10th, we will see Venus at it’s brightest. Unfortunately, it will be a sight for the nocturnal as it rises at 2.38am and will set at 6.19pm. Although with Venus being so close to us and so bright, many people mistake it for the first ‘star’ we see in the sky at night so we may catch it at some point during the day. Keep your eyes peeled!

July 11, the moon will be in the last quarter of its monthly cycle. This means you will be able to see about 50% of the moon’s surface. This is especially good if you are wanting to view the moon through a telescope or binoculars. You will be able to see far more detail of the moon rather than if it were a full moon. This is because when the moon appears full, from earth, the sun is shining directly on it, thus washing out the shadows of craters and hills. When the sun is highlighting the left or right side of the moon, shadows from deep craters will appear darker and have more depth. The moon will be visible from around 12.10am until 2.30pm, so we more than likely won’t be able to reap the full benefits of the moon in this position.

Contrary to the above regarding the supermoon, on July 15, we will see a lunar apogee, where the moon will be at a distance of 404,782 kilometers away. Okay, okay, this isn’t as exciting as a nice big bright moon, but it’s still nice to know what’s going on up there to gives us a better mental image of the moon’s orbit.

In late July through to early August, we will hopefully get to see a spectacular meteor shower! The last shower, Eta Aquarid, was on May 5, but was unfortunately fully washed out by the massive supermoon. Most astronomers consider these forthcoming showers, known as the Delta Aquarid and Perseid meteor showers, to be the best and most reliable meteor display for northern hemisphere observers. It will be best to see these showers around midnight, although some minor showers will be visible from earlier on. The moons surface should be at around 75% visibility, and will rise at 7.10pm and set at around 2am, so I doubt it will affect visibility, although the weather might!! If you are in the North East of England please see below for weather links.**

Throughout the month, Saturn and Mars are our most reliably visible planets. They generally rise in the afternoon which positions them in a perfect viewing range for an evening viewing. I personally have only just viewed Saturn for the first time through my telescope and seeing its rings is spectacular. Take advantage of it being around this month and get searching. Talking from experience, standing still outside for hours can be rather chilly work, so make sure you’ve got a bulky coat or a few jumpers to throw on.

I hope this entry was useful to some of you, if you manage to get any good pictures or manage to see anything during the month please pass them on. The best picture or story will be shown in next month’s entry. Also, I hope you remembered to put your clock forward by one second at midnight last night, yep, one second! It has been discovered that the earth has decreased in its speed of rotation because of tidal forces between the Earth and the moon. This isn’t just a recent thing, so don’t panic. In fact, when the dinosaurs were around the earth completed a full rotation in 23 hours. The 2012 leap second is the 35th leap second to be added and the first since 2008.

Unfortunately we have no upcoming International Space Station passes coming up, but next month we’re in for a mass amount! Make sure to check back for ISS passing times and dates, you can even subscribe to this blog via email over there on the left so you don’t miss an entry.

Thanks for reading :)


Additional Notes: Aphelion and Perihelion.

As mentioned before, aphelion and perihelion is the days in which the Earth and sun are at the furthest or closest distance from each other respectively. At first, I kept getting them muddled up with each other, it can be hard to remember which one means closest and which means furthest. When I was younger, when referring to the time, I struggled to remember my AM’s and PM’s, when my trusty Dad taught me to remember AM as being “After Midnight”. Perfect, it clicked! Similarly, I remember aphelion, as being “away”, as they both begin with the letter A, and I remember perihelion as the earth “per-sisting” to get closer to the earth so we can get some sunny days! Silly, I know, but it does work.

On this year’s Aphelion Day, the sun will be a massive 152,000,000 kilometers away. This is 3 million miles further away from the sun than when the Earth was at perihelion on January 4 this year. The reason we get closer and further away from the sun is because our orbit of the sun isn’t a perfect circle – we are a slightly stretched out circle called an ellipse.

So, wait a minute, why is the temperature not much hotter when we’re closer to the sun? Good question, well it is…in Australia! Let me explain…

Earth, as it rotates is on a tilt. If you think back to school and seeing a globe in a geography class, the model of the globe is tilted. Unfortunately, because we live in the northern hemisphere, we are tilted away from the sun, and the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun. Therefore we get fewer direct rays from the sun, and therefore less heat. Just before you get massively jealous of Australians, in turn, their winters are much, much colder than ours as they have their winter when we are at aphelion. Hopefully this poorly constructed visual aid I made on “paint” earlier will assist. :)


** I check what the visibility for a night’s viewing is going to be like by logging onto www.southtyneweather.co.uk

The information I have provided in this blog regarding the specific times of the rising of the moon, sun and planets was obtained with the Star Walk Application available on most app stores. There is a small fee included when downloading this application but it is essential for viewing the skies. It also includes real-time data based on your GPS location making it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Special thanks to my new editor Vicki “Bicki” Newman @shieldsgazvicki

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