A 2018 Guide: The Moon, Meteors and More

 

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The Super Blue Blood Moon from last week at Roosevelt Arch / Flickr

All over my social media pages I saw articles and posts in the run up to the ‘super blue blood moon’ on January 31st – it sounded exciting! And then I read further… it was only visible for a decent amount of time in the most western part of the Northern hemisphere (aka North America, including Hawaii and Alaska) before sunrise, and more briefly in the eastern parts of the world (Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia and Australasia). So, here in little old England all I saw was a slightly-bigger-than average full moon (which was still pretty cool). I had to rely on the NASA website to watch a live stream to catch a glimpse of the full ‘super blue blood’ aspect of this lunar event. This got me thinking, if our moon is up to anything else spectacular this year, I don’t want to miss it!

So, here it is! A quick lunar calendar for the rest of 2018 to keep on top of the moons marvellous movements! (Warning: Other astronomical info may also be slipped in…)

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  • February 15th: Partial Solar Eclipse.

This is where the sun, Earth and the moon don’t quite line up, and our planet blocks out just a bit of the sun’s reflecting light. This should be visible in the most southerly part of the Southern hemisphere – in the Antarctic and southern South America.

Basically when the centre of the visible sun (no, please don’t try and look at it) is directly above the Earth’s equator, and throughout the whole of the world day and night is about equal.

Although the term can refer to the blue-ish tinge the moon can have due to particles in the atmosphere, in this case a Blue Moon means the second of two full moons to fall within a single calendar month. Still awesome.

This meteoric event should be seen if the light of the First Quarter Moon of April will let it have it’s time in the spotlight. This (oldest known) shower is created by debris from comet Thatcher (which takes about 415 years to orbit around the Sun – not very long huh?) and is named after the Lyra constellation.

 

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Lyrid meteor shower from 2015 / Flickr

Eta Aquarid is one of two showers created by the debris from Comet Halley (taking a relatively quick 76 years to orbit the sun) and is named after the brightest star of the Aquarius constellation (where it appears to radiate from) – Eta Aquaril.

Formally, this is when the Sun appears to reach its most northerly or southerly excursion in relation to the equator. But basically this is when daylight hours are simultaneously at their longest for some (Summer Solstice) and their shortest (Winter Solstice) for others. This solstice marks the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, and Winter Solstice for the Southern Hemisphere

Literally, a full moon. But is sometimes referred to as the Strawberry Moon in North America as it coincides with the strawberry picking season.

When the Earth is at the furthest point from the sun in it’s annual orbit. Anybody else feeling a bit chilly…?

  • July 13th: Partial Solar Eclipse.

Same event as the last time, but this time the eclipse is best seen from the very north of the Antarctic and very south of Australia and New Zealand.

The second of the year, but we won’t miss this one! The moon will be plunged into complete darkness for a total time of 103 minutes, and will be most visible, or not visible I guess, in most of Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and Antarctica.

  • August 11th: Partial Solar Eclipse.

Again, the same event as before! This time the Central and Eastern Europe, the very north east of North America, Greenland and Iceland gets the best view in the house!

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Perseid meteor shower over San Mateo, California in 2016 / Flickr

Aptly named after the constellation Perseus, this is probably one of the brightest and most active meteor shower of the year (up to 60-100 meteors an hour in the darkest spots). The space debris of this shower comes from the comet Swift-Tuttle – I know, what a great name?!

  • September 23rd: Equinox (2nd).

This one is exactly the same as last time, with equal daylight and night time hours globally (approximately). Sometimes this one is referred to as the Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere as it marks the first day of Fall or Autumn.

  • September 24/25th: Harvest Moon in the Northern Hemisphere.

This is the full moon which is just closest in time to the (September) equinox. The name is thought to come from when seasons were tracked using the lunar month – and this was the harvesting month!

  • October 8th: The Draconids meteor shower (AKA the Giacobinids).

Titled after the constellation Draco the Dragon, the Draconids are formed from dust debris of comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner. This comet takes about 6.6 years to make a single revolution around the Sun – very speedy by comparison to others!

The second shower due to Comet Halley’s debris… and it still takes 76 years for the comet to make it around the sun. During the Orionids up to 20 meteors can be seen an hour – but this is at it’s peak.

Formed from the debris of comet Tempel-Tuttle which orbits the sun over a 33 year period, the Leonid shower is named as such because the meteors seem to appear from the constellation Leo.

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The Leonid meteor shower from 2009 showing a particle with a blazing train and double afterglow / Flickr

Named after which constellation I guess – Gemini! What a surprise! This meteor shower could be visible from the 4th-16th but peak around the end of this period with up to an amazing 120 visible meteors an hour! The Geminids are unusual in that they aren’t associated with a comet but with an asteroid which orbits the sun every 1.4 years – the asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

  • December 21st: Solstice.

As with the last solstice, it is both the longest and shortest day of the year for half of the world. This time it will be the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

This shower emerges from the Ursa Minor constellation in the sky – gaining its name, and meaning it can only be visible in the Northern Hemisphere. The Ursids are created from the comet 8P/Tuttle (aka Mechain-Tuttle’s Comet).

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If you’re interested in astronomic activity, or any other scientific topic, and want to write about it just get in touch! 


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