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Astronomical Information for Taunton during July 2022

Starfish imageIntroduction


Welcome to StarFish.net – Astronomical Information from the UK Hydrographic Office

This page provides some astronomical information on a monthly basis for those of you living in the Taunton area. Timings are in BST (British Summer Time) unless otherwise noted. Latest additions or updates are highlighted with a red border.

This month we have sections on:


Earth at Aphelion

The Earth reaches aphelion, the point furthest from the Sun in its orbit, on Monday July 4th at 08:11 BST when it is 152,098,455 km from the Sun.

2022 Astronomical and Calendarial Sheet

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader Additional information on the phases of the Moon, the seasons, summer times, eclipses, chronological cycles and eras, religious calendars, the civil calendar and holiday dates in the United Kingdom can be found in HMNAO's Astronomical and Calendarial Sheet No. 109 for 2022. This is a pdf document for which a document reader can be downloaded by clicking on the Adobe Reader icon above.

Remember ...

This web page can also be accessed from outside the UK Hydrographic Office on http://astro.ukho.gov.uk/nao/taunton.html.

↻ The last update to this page was made on Saturday, 2022 July 30 at 21:42:56 BST.


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Starfish imageThe Sun


28-day
  animation of Solar Dynamics Observatory images of the Sun courtesy of NASA An animated view of the Sun's disk over the last twenty eight days is shown in the image on the left. North is at the top of the image and east is to the left. These images come from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager instrument on the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite. More multi-wavelength data from the SDO can be found here.

There are three designated active regions on the visible disk of the Sun. AR3062 lies very close to the south-western limb and is composed of a single large umbral core whereas AR3066 also lies in the south-western quadrant approaching the limb and is composed of two barely visible features. AR3068 lies in the south-eastern quadrant and is composed of three umbral cores of various sizes and several other features. All of these active regions pose little or no threat of significant solar flare activity with the possible exception of AR3068 which is still growing. The total number of spotless days for 2022 is just a single day. Solar winds are currently blowing with velocities of up to 350 kms-1 and the planetary Kp geomagnetic activity index is likely to peak at 2 (quiet) today. There is a significant coronal hole straddling the southern part of the central meridian of the Sun. Solar winds emanating from this feature could reach the Earth on August 2nd–4th. Before the recent very brief hiatus in sunspot activity, the Sun had exhibited a continuous spell of activity of nearly twenty-six weeks, indicating that the Sun had been more active than initial predictions for Solar Cycle 25 suggested. This diagram supports this observation but shows we are still on course for a solar maximum around July 2025. The overall amount of solar activity remains at low levels.

NASA reported that a reversal of the Sun's magnetic field took place at the start of 2014 indicating that the maximum of Solar Cycle 24 had been reached. A plot of sunspot numbers, both observed and predicted versus time indicates that the solar maximum of Solar Cycle 24 was more complex than had been previously predicted. The maximum was double-peaked in a similar manner to that of the previous maximum of 2001/2002. The individual peaks occurred in 2011 and 2014 with the latter being the larger of the two. However, sunspot numbers were significantly down on the predictions made for the maximum — indeed Solar Cycle 24 may be the weakest in the last 100 years or so i.e. since Solar Cycle 14.

The declining phase of the solar cycle brings increased numbers of cosmic rays to the Earth, an increased frequency of 'pink' aurorae and a slight dimming of the Sun of approximately 0.1% in terms of the total solar irradiance. TSIS-1 was launched on December 15th 2017; it will monitor the Sun over a five-year period covering the whole of the current solar minimum. Cooling and contraction of the Earth's upper atmosphere in response to the changes on the Sun due to the solar minimum also delayed the orbital decay of satellites such as the Chinese space station, Tiangong 1, which returned to Earth on Monday April 2nd 2018 at 00:16 UTC. The Sun's magnetic field and solar winds provide some protection for the Earth from cosmic rays. A recent paper in the journal Space Weather claims that this solar minimum could see a rise in the number of cosmic rays reaching the Earth by as much as 30% due to the weakening magnetic field of the Sun and reduced levels of solar winds. This could mean an increased risk of radiation exposure for travellers on commercial airlines and possible changes to the climate.

During the post maximum phase of the solar cycle individual energetic events can spawn some of the most powerful flares and coronal mass ejections of the cycle. The so-called Carrington event on September 1st–2nd 1859 during Solar Cycle 10 is a good example of just what might ensue from this type of violent outburst. On 2020 September 15th NASA and NOAA announced that a minimum of the Sun's activity had been reached in December 2019 bringing to an end the old Solar Cycle 24. Initial predictions were that Solar Cycle 25 would be a weak one, similar to its predecessor, peaking in 2025. As a result, it would produce a deep minimum with long periods without much sunspot or flare activity. Space weather would be dominated by solar winds and cosmic rays rather than sunspots and solar flare activity. However, Solar Cycle 25 has produced larger numbers of sunspots relative to the predictions made by the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel in 2019. For the past eleven months, the sunspot number has significantly exceeded the official forecast. This may suggest a stronger Solar Cycle 25 than predicted which could peak in late 2024 rather than July 2025.

The latest information on solar activity can be found at SpaceWeather.com and at the Space Weather Prediction Center Space Weather Enthusiasts Dashboard.

If an auroral display is possible or likely, warnings can be received from AuroraWatch UK. More UK-focused geomagnetic data can be found at the British Geological Survey web site.


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Starfish imageThe Moon


Full Moon image Moon phases for the current month are given in the table below. Information on the times of perigee and apogee of the Moon are also provided. A link is given to the Crescent MoonWatch web site from the New Moon phase which provides information on the visibility of this month's new crescent moon. Information on attempts to sight the new crescent moon will be provided if successful. Times of enhanced tides are also given where perigee occurs near either New Moon or Full Moon. The name of the full moon given below is generally of either Old English or Anglo-Saxon descent. The sequence of Moon phases for this month and their designations are shown in the rolling animation:


Continuous Moon Phase animation
  Moon phases for July 2022 are as follows:
First Quarter symbol First Quarter Thursday July 7th at 03:14 BST
Full Moon symbol Full Moon Wednesday July 13th at 19:38 BST
'Hay Moon'
Last Quarter symbol Last Quarter Wednesday July 20th at 15:19 BST
New Moon symbol New Moon Thursday July 28th at 18:55 BST
Lunation 1232

The Moon is at perigee (i.e. nearest to the Earth) on Wednesday July 13th at 10:06 BST when it is 357,264 km from the Earth. It is at apogee (i.e. furthest from the Earth) on Tuesday July 26th at 11:22 BST when it is 406,274 km from the Earth.

The combination of the Moon being close to perigee and the phase of the Moon being either new or full (i.e. the Sun, Earth and Moon are in alignment) as it is around Wednesday July 13th and shortly thereafter leads to 'perigean' (or more rarely proxigean) spring tides i.e. spring tides with a tidal range slightly larger than those of normal spring tides.

On Thursday July 21st, the Moon occults the planet Mars which lies in the constellation of Aries. This occultation by a waning crescent moon is visible from Japan, north-eastern Russia, north-western Alaska. Svalbard and northern Greenland. This occultation is not visible from the United Kingdom.

On Friday July 22nd, the Moon occults the planet Uranus which lies in the constellation of Aries. This occultation by a waning crescent moon is visible from north-eastern parts of South America, the Cape Verde Islands, Madeira, north-western Africa, Europe (except the British Isles and Scandinavia), south-western Russia, most of the Middle East, westernmost China and northern India. This occultation is not visible from the United Kingdom.


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Starfish imageSupermoons


2016 November 14th Supermoon at Glastonbury Tor The term 'Supermoon' was coined in 1979 by astrologer Richard Nolle. He defined it as 'a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit', without explaining why the 90% figure was chosen. As the Moon's orbit is elliptical, not circular, there is a point in its orbit where it is closest to the Earth (perigee) and another one where it is furthest away from the Earth (apogee) and these perigee and apogee distances change somewhat from one orbit to another. In the period between 1850 and 2050, perigee distances for the Moon range from 356,375 km to 370,355 km while apogee distances range from 404,055 km to 406,710 km. Using Nolle's criterion, on average, a full moon occurring within 367,607 km of the Earth will be a supermoon.

The closest full moons occur on average in cycles of just over a year as 14 lunar months or lunations is only 2.7 hours longer than the time taken for 15 returns to perigee. The full moon of 2022 May 16th took place at a distance of 362,127 km, 35.2 hours before perihelion. The perigean full moon of Thursday May 16th would probably be referred to as a 'Blood Supermoon' as it coincides with a total eclipse of the Moon. The full moon of Tuesday June 14th took place at a distance of 357,656 km, only 11.5  before perihelion. The full moon of Wednesday July 13th takes place at a distance of 357,418 km, only 9.5 hours after perihelion. The full moon of Friday August 12th takes place at a distance of 361,412 km, 32.5 hours after perihelion. The May and August full moons are marginal supermoons and, by some, may not be classed as 'real supermoons'. The full moons of June and July are considered to be supermoons by most, if not all, criteria. Within this four month period of 2022, all the full moons take place at distances of less than 362,200 km from the Earth. We might say that the supermoons of June 14th and July 13th are more super than the May and August supermoons as they take place at distances of less than 357,700 km from the Earth. However, they do not make the list of the twenty closest full moons in the interval 1800–2050 given below.

The Twenty Closest Full Moons: 1800–2050
DateTimeDistance
YearMonthDayHourMinutekm
1912January 041329356,375.4
1893December230437356,402.0
1930January 142221356,404.6
2034November252232356,445.7
1831December190508356,456.0
1849December291401356,464.6
1875December121946356,486.6
1948January 260711356,490.5
1813December072017356,504.4
2016November141352356,520.2
1972November202307356,523.8
1807February221302356,524.2
1868January 092253356,528.2
2036January 131116356,529.0
1993March 080946356,530.8
1975February260115356,536.7
1990December020750356,541.3
1974January 081236356,548.3
1992January 192128356,550.9
1830October 311702356,561.8

The six closest full moons in the first half of the 21st century will take place on 2034 November 25th at 22:32 UT at a distance of 356,446 km, 2016 November 14th at 13:52 UT at a distance of 356,520 km, 2036 January 13th at 11:16 UT at a distance of 356,529 km, 2011 March 19th at 18:10 UT at a distance of 356,577 km, 2018 January 2nd at 02:24 UT at a distance of 356,602 km and 2010 January 30th at 06:18 UT at a distance of 356,607 km. Perhaps these will be known as 'Ultimoons'!

Many media articles will mention that the Moon will be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than when the full moon occurs furthest from the Earth or 7% bigger and 15% brighter than average. A nice illustration of this can be seen on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site. As a result of these differences, you might expect to see a significantly bigger and brighter Moon but this is not the case. The transition between an apogee full moon and a perigee full moon takes place over seven lunar cycles so the apparent changes in size from one full moon to the next are only perhaps 2% in apparent size and 3% in apparent brightness. These changes are more difficult to detect. Indeed, discerning changes in the size of the Moon is even more difficult to perceive when the Moon is close to the horizon due to the so-called 'Moon Illusion'. On a given night, the rising or setting Moon will appear larger than when it is high in sky. There is no proper explanation for this perceived difference but it may be related to the presence of perceptual cues for the eye near the horizon which are missing for an object much higher in the sky.

Editor's comment ...

Is the supermoon just another piece of media hype? Have you also noticed the increasing use of the term 'Micromoon' for the smallest full moon in a given period of time? Neil de Grasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, has suggested that supermoons are indeed over-hyped. 'I don't know who first called it a Supermoon' he told StarTalk radio. 'I don't know, but if you have a 16-inch pizza, would you call that a super pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza?'. Enough said ...


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Starfish imageBlue Moons & Full Moon Names


Blue Moons

Blue Moon Many of you will have heard of the term 'Blue Moon' in phrases such as 'once in a blue moon ...' meaning a rare or infrequent event. January and March in 2018 had two full moons whereas February 2018 had no full moon. The last time this sequence of events occurred was in 1999. It will happen again in 2037.

There are two 'definitions' of a blue moon describing an extra full moon within a subdivision of a year. One refers to the third of four full moons in a season and, more recently and erroneously, the second full moon in a calendar month. This definition came from an article in the March 1946 edition of Sky & Telescope by James Hugh Pruett and was propagated until 1999 by this well-known astronomy magazine. If you divide the year up into quarters using solstices and equinoxes as limiting dates then the blue moons are termed 'seasonal'. If you adopt calendar months as your criterion, where two full moons occur within a month, then the blue moons are termed 'calendrical'. The next calendrical blue moon occurs August 2023 and the next seasonal blue moon occurs in August 2024.

The blue part of the name has nothing to do with the colour of the Moon, although on very rare occasions smoke and/or dust in the atmosphere can give the moon a somewhat bluish tint. The term blue moon may be linked to the belief that this second moon was a 'betrayer' moon or 'belewe' moon in the determination of Lent.

Blue moons of both types are listed in sequential order for the period 2000 to 2040 in the table below.

Seasonal
Blue Moons
 Calendrical
Blue Moons
YearFull Moon Year1st – Full Moon2nd – Blue Moon
2000February 19th 2001November 1st November 30th
2002August 22nd  2004July 2nd July 31st
2005August 19th  2007June 1st June 30th
2008May 20th  2009December 2nd December 31st
2010November 21st 2012August 2nd August 31st
2013August 21st  2015July 2nd July 31st
2016May 21st  2018January 2nd January 31st
2019May 18th  2018March 2nd March 31st
2021August 22nd  2020October 1st October 31st
2024August 19th  2023August 1st August 31st
2027May 20th  2026May 1st May 31st
2029August 24th  2028December 2nd December 31st
2032August 21st  2031September 1stSeptember 30th
2035May 22nd  2034July 1st July 31st
2038May 18th  2037January 2nd January 31st
2040August 22nd  2037March 2nd March 31st
 2039October 2nd October 31st

The above timings are predicated on GMT/UT-based dates. Whichever scheme one adopts, a blue moon is not as rare an event as it might seem. In fact, seasonal blue moons happen seven times in nineteen years or once every 2.7 years on average.

You can also have a 'Black' moon; there are several definitions for this type of moon. One is the second occurrence of a new moon in a calendar month. It can also be the third new moon within a season of four new moons. Both of these are analogous to the blue moon definitions. The third is the absence of a full moon in a calendar month and the fourth is the absence of a new moon in a calendar month. The last two can only happen in February in addition to the previous January and the following March having two full or new moons respectively. February 2018, is an example of the third definition which occurs about once every 19 years.

Some people may have heard of 'dry' moons and 'wet' or 'Cheshire' moons, where the cusps or horns of the crescent moon point upwards. In the northern hemisphere, the dry moon is a summertime moon whereas the wet moon is a wintertime one. Both of these terms are thought to come from Hawaiian astrology where the crescent moon is regarded as a bowl for collecting water.

Full Moon names

Folklore has also given us a plethora of names for each month's Full Moon. Here are a selection of names from a variety of cultures including Native American Indian, Colonial American, Pagan, English Medieval or Old English and Anglo-Saxon. I should point out that this list is by no means an exhaustive one.

MonthFull Moon names
January Wolf / Cold / Chaste / Old / Ice / Moon After Yule / Winter
February Snow / Storm / Hunger / Chaste / Wolf
March Worm / Crow / Sap / Chaste / Lenten / Death / Crust / Sugar / Wind
April Pink / Paschal / Seed / Sprouting Grass / Egg / Fish / Hare / Sap / Spring / Awakening / Frog
May Flower / Milk / Mother's / Hare / Corn Planting / Grass
June Strawberry / Flower / Mead / Rose / Dyan / Thunder / Hot
July Buck / Hay / Wort / Summer / Thunder / Elk
August Sturgeon / Corn / Red / Fruit / Green Corn / Grain / Barley / Herb / Dog
September Harvest / (Full) Corn / Barley / Fruit
October Hunter's / Dying Grass / Blood / Sanguine / Falling Leaf / Travel / Harvest / Autumn / Dying
November Beaver / Frost / Snow / Mourning / Oak / Hunter's / Turkey / Dark
December Cold / Winter / Oak / Long Night / Moon Before Yule

The naming sequence I have adopted for the full moon is an English Medieval or Old English one. The Full Moon has a name related to its occurrence in the sequence of Solstices and Equinoxes. Normally there are twelve full moons in most years which means that three full moons occur during most seasons. However, four full moons can occur in one season — the third moon in such a season can be referred to as a 'blue moon'. Here is the table for 2022. The 'Note' column contains the starting point of a particular astronomical season and whether there is a lunar eclipse associated with the specified full moon.

Full Moon name or SeasonUT Date and TimeNote
Winter Solstice 2021 December 21st 15:59 UTWinter starts
Moon After Yule 2022 January 17th 23:48 UT
Wolf Moon 2022 February 16th 16:56 UT
Lenten Moon 2022 March 18th 07:18 UT
Spring Equinox 2022 March 20th 15:33 UTSpring starts
Egg Moon 2022 April 16th 18:55 UT
Milk Moon 2022 May 16th 04:14 UTLunar Eclipse
Flower Moon 2022 June 14th 11:52 UT
Summer Solstice 2022 June 21st 09:14 UTSummer starts
Hay Moon 2022 July 13th 18:38 UT
Grain Moon 2022 August 12th 01:36 UT
Fruit Moon 2022 September 10th 09:59 UT
Autumn Equinox 2022 September 23th 01:04 UTAutumn starts
Harvest Moon 2022 October 9th 20:55 UT
Hunter's Moon 2022 November 8th 11:02 UTLunar Eclipse
Moon Before Yule2022 December 8th 04:08 UT
Winter Solstice 2022 December 21st 21:48 UTWinter starts

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Starfish imageEclipses


Partial eclipse of the Sun There are four eclipses visible from the Earth during 2022 — two Lunar eclipses (both total) and two Solar eclipses (both partial). Two of the eclipses are visible from the United Kingdom, namely half of the total eclipse of the Moon on Monday May 16th and a shallow partial phase of the eclipse of the Sun on Tuesday October 25th. Information on the eclipses in terms of their place within their respective Saros series, which govern the periodicity and recurrence of these events, and their circumstances, both global and local, are given below.

Saros Information

The 2022 April 30th partial eclipse of the Sun is the 66th eclipse of 71 in Saros 119 which started on 850 May 15th and will end on 2112 June 24th. The sequence of eclipses occur at the Moon's ascending node and are made up of 8 partials, 2 totals, 1 hybrid, 51 annular and 9 partial eclipses.

The 2022 May 16th total eclipse of the Moon is the 34th eclipse of 72 in Saros 131 which started on 1427 May 10th and will end on 2707 July 7th. The sequence of eclipses occur at the Moon's descending node and are made up of 8 penumbrals, 2 partials, 15 totals, 20 partials and 8 penumbral eclipses.

The 2022 October 25th partial eclipse of the Sun is the 55th eclipse of 73 in Saros 124 which started on 1049 March 6th and will end on 2347 May 11th. The sequence of eclipses occur at the Moon's descending node and are made up of 9 partials, 43 totals, 1 hybrid and 20 partial eclipses.

The 2022 November 08th total eclipse of the Moon is the 20th eclipse of 72 in Saros 136 which started on 1680 April 13th and will end on 2960 June 1st. The sequence of eclipses occur at the Moon's ascending node and are made up of 8 penumbrals, 7 partials, 27 totals, 8 partials and 22 penumbral eclipses.

Global and Local Circumstances

A Thumbnail partial eclipse of the Sun occurred on Saturday April 30th 2022 in the southern part of the constellation of Aries. It was visible from the south-eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, the Antarctic Peninsula, Ellsworth Land in western Antarctica and most of the southern half of South America. The eclipse began at 18:45 UT and ended at 22:38 UT. The time of greatest eclipse was 20:41 UT, when 0.640 of the Sun's diameter was obscured. This eclipse was not visible from the United Kingdom.

A Thumbnail total eclipse of the Moon occurred on Monday May 16th 2022 in the southern part of the constellation of Libra. It was visible in its entirety from the Atlantic Ocean region, the eastern half of North America, Central and South America and the western Pacific Ocean region. Parts of the eclipse were visible from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, western parts of North America except Alaska, the central part of the Pacific Ocean region and New Zealand. The penumbral phase started at 01:31 UT and ended at 06:52 UT. This phase of the eclipse is difficult to perceive and becomes noticeable about two thirds of the way from the start of the penumbral phase to the start of the umbral phase. The umbral phase began at 02:28 UT and ended at 05:55 UT. Totality lasted from 03:29 UT to 04:54 UT. In Taunton, the Moon rose on Sunday May 15th at 20:21 BST and the penumbral phase started in the early hours of Monday May 16th at 02:31 BST although this phase only becomes noticeable at around 03:10 BST. The umbral phase started at 03:28 BST when the umbral shadow of the Earth started to cover the Moon. Totality, when the Moon goes a coppery-red colour, started at 04:29 BST, reached mid-eclipse at 05:11 BST and ended at 05:54 BST. The umbral phase ended at 06:55 BST and the penumbral phase ended at 07:52 BST. The Moon set in Taunton at 05:25 BST on Monday May 16th about thirty minutes before the end of the total phase. Consequently, around half of the eclipse was visible from most parts of the United Kingdom.

please note: This eclipse may be described in the media as a 'Blood Supermoon' as the total eclipse occurs when the Moon is a little closer to us than normal – it is a perigean full moon. In fact, the Moon will be a little over 362,000 km away from us, some 35.2 hours before perihelion occurs. The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano in January this year may have deposited significant amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere which may make the eclipse somewhat redder and/or darker than usual.

A deep Thumbnail partial eclipse of the Sun occurs on Tuesday October 25th 2022 in the southern part of the constellation of Virgo. It is visible from Iceland, Europe (including the British Isles), north-eastern Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, India and western China. The eclipse begins at 08:58 UT and ends at 13:02 UT. The time of greatest eclipse is 11:00 UT, when 0.862 of the Sun's diameter is obscured. In Taunton, a shallow partial eclipse begins at 10:10 BST and ends at 11:44 BST. Maximum obscuration takes place at 10:56 BST when 11.5% of the Sun is obscured.

A Thumbnail total eclipse of the Moon occurs on Tuesday November 8th 2022 in the south-eastern part of the constellation of Aries. It is visible in its entirety from western parts of North America, the central Pacific Ocean region, New Zealand, most of Japan and north-eastern Asia. Parts of the eclipse are visible from Central and South America, the Pacific Ocean region, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, India, most of the Indian Ocean region and western Asia. The penumbral phase begins at 08:01 UT and ends at 13:58 UT. The umbral phase begins at 09:09 UT and ends at 12:49 UT. Totality lasts from 10:16 UT to 11:42 UT and mid-eclipse takes place at 10:59 UT. This eclipse is not visible from the United Kingdom.

Further information on all the eclipses in 2022 can be found on the Eclipses Online web pages. This web site provides information on both solar and lunar eclipses in the period from 1501 CE to 2100 CE. Global circumstances of both solar and lunar eclipses are provided as well as local circumstances of the solar eclipses based on a gazetteer of approximately 1500 locations worldwide. Eclipses for next year, 2023, are also available.


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Starfish imageThe Planets


Planets visible with the naked eye ...

Mercury image

Mercury is effectively no longer visible in the bright east north-eastern morning twilight sky at the start of July as it moves towards superior conjunction on Saturday July 16th. Mercury then returns to the western evening twilight during the last week of July as a magnitude −1.0 object close to the border of Cancer and Leo and close to the horizon.


Venus image

Venus is becoming less conspicuous as it rises in the bright north-eastern morning twilight sky despite rising nearly two hours before the Sun. Its elongation decreases from 30° to 22° as the month progresses but it remains at magnitude −3.9 throughout July. Venus lies 4° north of Aldebaran (α Tauri) on Saturday July 2nd and lies 4° south of the waning crescent moon on Tuesday July 26th.


Mars image

Mars is visible in the eastern morning twilight sky in the constellation of Pisces and then moves into the neighbouring constellation Aries on Saturday July 9th where it remains for the rest of the month. It rises about an hour after midnight and brightens somewhat from magnitude +0.4 at the start of the month to +0.2 at the end of July. Mars lies 1.1°south of the waning crescent moon on Thursday July 21st and will be seen as an occultation from northern-latitude locales.


Jupiter image

Jupiter is visible in the eastern pre-morning twilight sky rising about midnight during July. It lies in the extreme north-western part of the constellation of Cetus for the whole of the month. Jupiter brightens somewhat from magnitude −2.4 at the start of the month to −2.6 at the end of July with a disk that is 43 arcseconds wide. Jupiter lies 2° north of the waning gibbous moon on Tuesday July 19th.


Saturn image

Saturn lies in the east south-eastern morning pre-twilight sky, rising a couple of hours before midnight. It lies in the north-eastern part of the constellation of Capricornus throughout July. Saturn brightens somewhat from magnitude +0.5 at the start of the month to magnitude +0.3 at the end of July. It lies 4° north of the waning gibbous moon on Friday July 15th. The north side of the ring plane is exposed with a tilt of 13.0° with the ring system spanning 42 arcseconds while the planet's disk is just over 18 arcseconds wide. The rings are slowly beginning to close in the run-up to the ring-plane crossing in 2025.


Planets visible with Binoculars ...

Uranus image

Uranus is visible low in the eastern morning pre-twilight sky as a blue-green object of magnitude +5.8. Uranus lies in the southern part of the constellation of Aries where it remains for the rest of the year. It lies approximately 8.1° north east of the fourth magnitude A9 giant star 87 Ceti (μ Ceti) and can be glimpsed with the naked eye under optimum conditions. Uranus is occulted by the waning crescent moon on Friday July 22th over much of Eurasia.


Neptune image

Neptune is visible in the south-eastern morning pre-twilight sky. It is a bluish object which remains at magnitude +7.7 throughout July. Neptune lies in the south-western corner of the constellation of Pisces It lies approximately 9.0° south east of the fourth magnitude G9 yellow-giant star γ Piscium. Neptune is normally visible with good binoculars or a small telescope under optimum conditions although it can also be difficult to distinguish Neptune from other stellar objects of a similar magnitude. It lies 3° north of the waning gibbous moon on Monday July 18th.


... & Telescopes!

Pluto image

Pluto rises nearly three hours before midnight in the south-eastern sky and sets two and half hours before sunrise. It lies close to the eastern edge of the constellation of Sagittarius, 9.1° south west of the star Dabih Major (β Capricorni), where it remains for the rest of the year. Strictly speaking, this is a dwarf planet which was demoted from the ranks of the 'bona-fide' planets at the 2006 International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Prague. At magnitude +14.7 throughout June, you will need a much larger telescope to find this remote member of the Solar System.



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Starfish imageMeteor Showers


Perseid
  meteors in 2010 The start of the Perseid meteor shower will be visible this month. These meteors are associated with the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle which orbits the Sun every 133 years. Although the Perseids are active from Sunday July 17th to Wednesday August 24th, they reach the peak of their activity in the evening of Saturday August 13th at around 02:00 BST so it is normally worth trying to observe them in the early hours of either Friday August 12th or Saturday August 13th. The radiant, the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate, is reasonably high in the north-eastern sky, and lies between the 'W-shaped' constellation of Cassiopeia and the top of the inverted 'Y-shape' of Perseus below Cassiopeia. This year, the peak of the shower occurs when the full moon lies in Aquarius meaning skies will be very bright throughout the night-time period. At the peak of the shower, we would normally expect to see as many as 100 meteors per hour on a dark night. However, the full moon will limit the number of meteors we will observer to only the brightest. The Perseids are often bright, quite fast and frequently leave persistent trails. Their numbers also increase somewhat as morning twilight approaches as the Earth is moving into the oncoming stream of meteors. The Perseids also produce a significant number of fireballs i.e. meteors that appear to be brighter than the planet Venus.

No other significant meteor showers visible from our latitudes are active this month during night time hours. Further information on these and other meteor showers occurring during 2022 can be found at the International Meteor Organization and their 2022 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Meteors can exhibit a variety of colours when they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, reflecting the chemical composition of the meteor. For example, a red colouration is indicative of atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen, yellow suggests iron, purple or violet suggests calcium, orange suggests sodium, blue or white suggests magnesium and green suggests nickel. The velocity of the meteor also has an effect on its colour as higher kinetic energies will intensify certain colours. Slow meteors appear to be red or orange whereas faster ones appear to be blue. However, the most commonly-observed colours are yellow, orange and sometimes green.

It is worth noting that bright sporadic meteors and fireballs are possible at any time e.g. the fireball observed over many parts of England and Scotland on Saturday March 3rd 2012 at 21:40 GMT. Larger events, known as bolides, are rarer. Typically, this is a very bright fireball reaching an apparent magnitude of −14 or so, perhaps three times as bright as a full moon. Even rarer are the superbolides, events with apparent magnitudes of −17 or so, around 50 times brighter than the full moon. A recent example of a superbolide was the Chelyabinsk meteor of Friday 15th February 2013 at 03:20 UTC which may have been a 20-metre diameter near-Earth asteroid.

A fireball was seen over a significant fraction of the United Kingdom and northern Europe on Sunday February 28th 2021 at 21:54 UT lasting approximately 3.5 seconds. It was estimated to be a magnitude −9 fireball which generated a sonic boom as it fell. Fragments of the object may have impacted the Earth in the area north of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Its solar-system point of origin may lie in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It has since been reported that at least part of the carbonaceous chondrite fell at a property in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire making it the first UK-based meteorite find in the past 30 years. The significance of this type of dark stony meteorite lies in the fact that its chemistry is similar to that of the early Solar System.

A loud sonic boom was heard at 14:58 UT on Saturday March 20th 2021. It rattled windows and shook homes for about 20 to 30 seconds and was heard over large tracts of Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Jersey. An explosion, an earthquake, thunder and a sonic boom from an RAF aircraft have all been ruled out. The culprit appears to be a daylight fireball or bolide which may have landed in the Bristol Channel. It has been photographed and may also have been detected on a Eumetsat weather satellite image. To be visible in daylight, the meteor must have been of a significant size, large enough for debris to have reached the ground. Its track through the atmosphere may be revealed by analysis of photographic material.

Another loosely-related phenomenon is the re-entry of space debris from space vehicles and satellites whose orbits are decaying to the point where they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. A couple of well-reported examples of this occurred at around 23:00 BST on Friday September 21st 2012 as well as the return of the GOCE satellite just after midnight on Tuesday November 12th 2013.


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Starfish imageComets


Comet McNaught - January 2007There are a number of comets around the sky at the moment. However, most of them require telescopic assistance to see them and some may be too far south in the sky to be seen by observers based in the United Kingdom. Here is a brief summary of the comets brighter than eleventh magnitude that may be accessible to observers with binoculars or small telescopes in the northern hemisphere.

C/2017 K2 (Panstarrs) starts the month as a magnitude +9.2 object in the constellation of Ophiuchus where it remains for the whole of July. It should brighten by more than a magnitude as the month progresses and will be visible with a small telescope fairly high in the southern sky around midnight. It is an Oort cloud object in a hyperbolic orbit which was discovered in May 2017 beyond the orbit of Saturn and will reach perihelion on Monday December 19th 2022.

When it was first discovered, C/2017 K2 (Panstarrs) caused a considerable amount of interest. It appeared to be one of the biggest comets in modern history with a nucleus some 160 km wide. Hubble Space Telescope observations have scaled this estimate down to 18 km which is still quite large as comet nuclei go. Indeed, typical comet nuclei lie in the range 1 to 3 km. The comet will make its closest approach to the Earth at a distance of 1.8 au on Thursday July 14th, brightening to 8th magnitude. This means it will be too dim to see with the naked eye but should make an easy target for amateur-sized telescopes.


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Starfish imageNoctilucent Clouds


Noctilucent Cloud Strictly speaking, this phenomenon is an atmospheric one rather than a truly astronomical one. Nonetheless, living in the United Kingdom, we are well placed to see this unusual spectacle during the shorter nights of the summer months, particularly in June and July.

These tenuous cloud-like structures are composed of ice-coated particles at an altitude of around 80 km in the mesosphere, approximately four times higher than the limiting altitude of cirrus cloud. Created by water vapour freezing around meteor smoke in the upper atmosphere, their altitude means that they appear silvery-blue in colour against the darker twilight sky when the Sun lies between 6° and 16° below the horizon.

Noctilucent or 'night shining' Cloud is normally seen between 10° and 20° above the northern horizon exhibiting a range of forms — perhaps the most common is the 'herring-bone' pattern. Normal visibility limits are mid-May to mid-August, peaking around the time of the Summer Solstice. More information, including the facility to report your sightings, can be found at the Noctilucent Cloud Observers' Homepage.

A word of warning; displays are unpredictable and more frequently seen from the northern half of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, observations have been submitted by observers living in this locality e.g. from Exeter and Castle Cary.

Maps constructed from AIM satellite imagery showing the current positions of Noctilucent Clouds have been restored. They can be found here.

A short animation of a bright noctilucent cloud display observed in the north-western sky from Selsey Bill during the evening twilight on Monday July 15th 2008 by The Sky at Night's Pete Lawrence is well worth a look. A photograph demonstrating that these clouds can be seen from southern parts of the United Kingdom was taken by D. Tate in Castle Cary in the early hours of Monday June 10th 2013.

News ...

  • 2022 May 25th: The first signs of noctilucent cloud in the northern hemisphere were seen by the AIM satellite over the Arctic Ocean between Greenland and Svalbard and also over northern parts of Nunavut, Canada on Wednesday May 25th and marks the start of the 2022 NLC season. The displays were small and relatively weak but stronger displays should start to appear over northern parts of the United Kingdom in the next couple of weeks or so.
  • 2022 May 26th–27th: The first report of noctilucent clouds being seen in the United Kingdom has come from Broughty Ferry, near Dundee on May 26th–27th between 00:16 UT and 01:47 UT covering a range of azimuth of approximately 50° around due north and up to an altitude of 13°.
  • 2022 June 6th–8th: NLC have been reported from a number of countries including northern France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Finland, Norway and several locations across the United Kingdom including Herne Bay in Kent, Langar in Nottinghamshire, Dundee in Tayside and Elgin in Morayshire.
  • 2022 June 23rd: The most southerly extent of the 2022 northern hemisphere NLC season so far is Treviso in northern Italy at a latitude of 45° 40′ north.
  • 2022 June 30th: A fine outbreak of noctilucent cloud as seen from Aarhus in Denmark photographed by Oliver Schwenn.
  • 2022 July 2nd: There is increasing speculation that the increased frequency of noctilucent cloud for 15 years is associated with more water vapour going into the mesosphere from larger numbers of rocket launches.
  • 2022 July 6th: Very bright noctilucent clouds have been seen across Europe, like these photographs taken over Bochum in Germany and Harleston, Norfolk in the U.K., being visible well into the dawn sky.

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Starfish imageInternational Space Station


NASA International Space Station photo If you want to look for the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes over Taunton, please have a look at the predictions page on the Heavens Above web site. The ISS is at least as bright as a first magnitude star and can approach the brightness of Venus under favourable conditions. Similarly, if you want to look for the core module of the new, third generation Chinese space station, Tianhe-1, predictions for this 'under-construction' space station can be found on this page. This module, the first of three parts, was launched on Thursday April 29th 2021. Tianhe-1 is significantly fainter than the ISS, normally about as bright as a third of fourth magnitude star. Predictions for other satellites may also be obtained from the Heavens Above web site.


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Starfish imageAurorae


Ovation auroral prediction for the northern hemisphere The above image is a 30-minute forecast of the location and probability of auroral activity based loosely on a model developed at Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory known as the Ovation Aurora Forecast model. It provides estimates of the energy per unit area on the Earth's atmosphere from observations of the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field made by the Advanced Composition Explorer satellite in conjunction with empirical relationships derived from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. It shows where the aurora is most likely to be seen and how bright it might be. The model generates a global estimate of power, called the Hemispheric Power, deposited into the atmosphere in gigawatts (GW). For powers of less than 20 GW, little or no aurora may be visible. For powers of 20-50 GW, you may need to be relatively close to the aurora to see it. For values above 50 GW, the aurora should be easily observable, active and mobile. For values above 100 GW, this is considered to be a significant storm where the aurora may be visible from hundreds of miles away. The current prediction is downloaded when you load this page. If you want to download the latest model, simply reload this page or press F5. If you want to see the full-sized map, please click on the above image.

If an auroral display is possible or likely, warnings can be received from AuroraWatch UK. More UK-focused geomagnetic data can be found at the British Geological Survey web site.


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Starfish imageSky chart for mid-July at 22:00 BST for Taunton


Sky chart for mid-July 2022 from Taunton at 22:00 BST The above sky chart, generated from the Heavens-Above.com web site, shows what the night sky looks like at 22:00 BST on Saturday July 16th 2022 from Taunton. The night sky will look the same an hour later at 23:00 BST at the beginning of the month and an hour earlier at 21:00 BST at the end of the month. Please click on the chart to see a full-sized sky chart image. If you want to generate your own star chart for Taunton for another date and/or time, please follow this link.


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Starfish imageRise/set times (BST) for the Sun & Moon for Taunton


In July 2022, the amount of daylight (measured from sunrise to sunset) decreases from 16 hours 28 minutes at the start of the month to 15 hours 24 minutes at the end of the month. Total daylight (sunrise to sunset) for the month is 496 hours 31 minutes.

start and end times of civil, nautical and astronomical twilights.

July 2022
Date &
Weekday
Rise/Set timesDay
Length
SunMoon
RiseSetRiseSet
h mh mh mh mh m
01Fri05:0221:3006:4423:3316:28
02Sat05:0321:3007:5423:5516:27
03Sun05:0421:2909:06** **16:25
04Mon05:0421:2910:1800:1316:25
05Tue05:0521:2911:3100:2816:24
06Wed05:0621:2812:4500:4116:22
07Thu05:0721:2714:0100:5516:20
08Fri05:0821:2715:2101:0916:19
09Sat05:0921:2616:4601:2616:17
10Sun05:1021:2518:1401:4716:15
11Mon05:1121:2519:4102:1716:14
12Tue05:1221:2420:5803:0116:12
13Wed05:1321:2321:5704:0316:10
14Thu05:1421:2222:3805:2316:08
15Fri05:1521:2123:0706:5316:06
16Sat05:1621:2023:2808:2316:04
17Sun05:1721:1923:4509:5016:02
18Mon05:1921:1823:5911:1215:59
19Tue05:2021:17** **12:2915:57
20Wed05:2121:1600:1313:4515:55
21Thu05:2221:1400:2714:5915:52
22Fri05:2421:1300:4316:1215:49
23Sat05:2521:1201:0217:2315:47
24Sun05:2621:1101:2618:3215:45
25Mon05:2821:0901:5819:3315:41
26Tue05:2921:0802:4020:2515:39
27Wed05:3121:0603:3321:0615:35
28Thu05:3221:0504:3621:3715:33
29Fri05:3321:0305:4522:0115:30
30Sat05:3521:0206:5722:1915:27
31Sun05:3621:0008:0922:3515:24
** ** No phenomenon on that day
PLEASE NOTE: These times are in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) except between 01:00 GMT on March 27th and 01:00 GMT on October 30th when the times are in BST (British Summer Time) which is one hour in advance of GMT.

Useful area for table of rise/set times The timings in the table above should be accurate to within 1–2 minutes inside the red circle superimposed on the map shown on the left.

Rising and setting times for the Sun, Moon and planets and times of twilights for other locations can be obtained from HMNAO's Websurf web pages using the Rise, Set and Twilight Times option.

The actual times at which the Sun will just appear, or disappear, will depend on the difference between the altitudes of the observer and the local horizon and the actual refraction, which depends on the meteorological conditions along the light path. Differences of a minute or so from the tabulated times are to be expected.

For the drivers amongst you, the 'Hours of Darkness', as defined in the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (1989), start half an hour after sunset and end half an hour before the following sunrise. Headlights should be used during the Hours of Darkness and sidelights in the half hour periods after sunset and before sunrise. These timings can also be obtained from HMNAO's Websurf web pages using the Rise, Set and Twilight Times option.

For the pilots amongst you, night, according to Statutory Instrument 2016 No. 765, The Air Navigation Order 2016, Schedule I (Interpretation), Article 2, means 'the time from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise (both times inclusive), sunset and sunrise being determined at surface level'. In other words, the night time period starts at the beginning of the Hours of Darkness and finishes at the end of the Hours of Darkness. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (Federal Aviation Regulations, Section 1.1) defines night as the time between the nd of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time. Sunset to the following sunrise can also be defined as night in the United States as well as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. By the way, flying in a total eclipse of the Sun does not count as night flying!


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