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Astronomical Information for Taunton during May 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:


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 Thursday, 2022 May 19 at 17:52:12 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 seven active regions on the visible disk of the Sun. AR3007 is a decaying feature which lies in the south-western quadrant close to the limb and is composed of several features including three small umbral cores. AR3010 is also made up of multiple small features as well as a single umbral core and straddles the southern part of the central meridian. The complex features AR3014 and AR3015 are in the north-eastern quadrant and composed of several large umbral features. AR3014 is growing rapidly; it has doubled in size of the past 48 hours and has a complex magnetic field which may lead to strong solar flare activity. The complex AR3014/AR3015 has displayed a number of M-class solar flares and AR3014 may be capable of generating stronger X-class events. The latest flare, an M2-class explosion on Monday May 16th at 13:27 UT, caused a minor shortwave radio blackout over the mid-Atlantic Ocean region. AR3016 lies in the south-eastern quadrant and is composed of a pair of umbral features whereas AR3017 lies in the north-eastern quadrant and is composed of a several small umbral features. AR3018 is a recent feature which lies in the south-eastern quadrant and is composed of a pair of small multi-cored features. More sunspots may appear over the eastern limb of the Sun in the next day or so. The total number of spotless days for 2022 remains at zero. Solar winds are currently blowing with velocities of up to 540 kms-1 and the planetary Kp geomagnetic activity index is likely to peak at 3 (quiet) today. There is a coronal hole in the north-western quadrant of the Sun. Solar winds emanating from this feature should reach the Earth on Saturday May 21st. The Sun has been exhibiting continuous sunspot activity for nearly twenty three weeks now, indicating that the Sun has been more active than initial predictions for Solar Cycle 25 suggested. This diagram corroborates 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 May 2022 are as follows:
First Quarter symbol First Quarter Monday May 9th at 01:21 BST
Full Moon symbol Full Moon Monday May 16th at 05:14 BST
'Flower Moon'
Total Eclipse of the Moon
Last Quarter symbol Last Quarter Sunday May 22nd at 19:43 BST
New Moon symbol New Moon Monday May 30th at 12:30 BST
Lunation 1230

The Moon is at apogee (i.e. furthest from the Earth) on Thursday May 5th at 13:46 BST when it is 405,285 km from the Earth. It is at perigee (i.e. nearest to the Earth) on Tuesday May 17th at 16:27 BST when it is 360,298 km from the Earth.

On Friday May 27th, the Moon occults the planet Venus in the constellation of Pisces. This occultation by a thin waning crescent moon is visible from southern Madagascar, the central Indian Ocean region, Reunion, Mauritius, most of South-East Asia, south-eastern China and most of Micronesia. This occultation is not visible from the United Kingdom.

On Saturday May 28th, the Moon occults the planet Uranus in the constellation of Aries. This occultation by a thin waning crescent moon is visible from Easter Island, most of South America, the Cape Verde Islands and most of West Africa. This occultation is not visible from the United Kingdom.

The beginning of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, Shawwal, starts with the sighting of the new crescent moon on or about Sunday May 1st (for optically-assisted sightings) or Monday May 2nd (for naked-eye sightings). This is when Muslims celebrate the breaking of the fasting month of Ramadan with the feast of Eid al-Fitr. Further information on the visibility of the crescent moon at the beginning of May can be found here.

First Sighting of the New Crescent Moon: New Moon occurred on Saturday April 30th but no sightings were possible due to poor weather conditions on Sunday May 1st, Monday May 2nd and Tuesday May 3rd. My only attempt to sight the crescent moon for this month was made from Ash Priors on Wednesday May 4th at 19:15 BST. The sighting was made during daylight in clear weather conditions. I should point out that my policy is to observe only for the first four days of the lunation. The Moon was at an altitude of 47.0° and an azimuth of 252.3° for this observation. It was 13.5% illuminated, 93.8 hours old and lay at an elongation from the Sun of 43° east. It appeared to be tilted over at an angle of approximately 45° in a clockwise direction. The observation was made when the Sun was 11.7° above the horizon at an azimuth of 281.3° i.e. 84 minutes before sunset. It is possible that the Moon might have been visible a little earlier than 19:15 BST.


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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 takes place at a distance of 362,127 km, 35.2 hours before perihelion. This perigean full moon of May 14th will probably be referred to as a Blood Supermoon as it coincides with a total eclipse of the Moon. The full moon of June 14th takes place at a distance of 357,656 km, only 11.5  before perihelion. The full moon of July 13th takes place at a distance of 357,418 km, only 9.5 hours after perihelion. The full moon of 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 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.

A Thumbnail partial eclipse of the Sun occurred on Saturday April 30th 2022. 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. 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 should become 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 became 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 sets around two hours after the Sun in the north-western sky at the beginning of the month. It fades from magnitude +0.5 at the start of the month to magnitude +4.3 at the middle of May. Mercury disappears into the twilight for the remainder of the month, reaching inferior conjunction on Saturday May 21st. It lies 1.8° north of the waxing crescent moon on Monday May 2nd.


Venus image

Venus is still conspicuous as it rises in the eastern morning twilight sky about an hour or so before the Sun. Its elongation decreases from 43° to 37° as the month progresses and as Venus fades slightly from magnitude −4.1 at the start of the month to −4.0 at the end of May. Venus lies 0.2° north of the waning crescent moon Friday May 27th. Indeed, an occultation by the crescent moon occurs in parts of South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean region.


Mars image

Mars is visible low in the east south-eastern morning twilight sky, moving from the constellation of Aquarius into the neighbouring constellation of of Pisces on Thursday May 19th. It rises about two hours before the Sun and brightens somewhat from magnitude +0.9 at the start of the month to +0.6 at the end of May. Mars lies 0.6° south of Neptune on Tuesday May 17th, 3° north of the waning crescent moon on Tuesday May 24th and 0.6° south of Jupiter on Sunday May 29th.


Jupiter image

Jupiter is visible low in the eastern morning twilight sky rising between one and two hours before the Sun during May. It lies in the south-western part of the constellation of Pisces. Jupiter brightens slightly from magnitude −2.1 at the start of the month to −2.2 at the end of May with a disk that is 36 arcseconds wide. Jupiter lies 3° north of the waning crescent moon on Wednesday May 25th and 0.6° north of Mars on Sunday May 29th.


Saturn image

Saturn lies low in the east south-eastern morning twilight sky, rising two to three hours before the Sun. It lies in the north-eastern part of the constellation of Capricornus throughout May. Saturn brightens slightly from magnitude +0.7 at the start of the month to magnitude +0.6 at the end of May. It lies 4° north of the last quarter moon on Sunday May 22nd. The north side of the ring plane is exposed with a tilt of 12.4° with the ring system spanning 38 arcseconds while the planet's disk is just over 17 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 in conjunction with the Sun on Thursday May 5th and not visible until the end of the month, very low in the east north-eastern morning twilight sky. It is then visible as a blue-green object of magnitude +5.9. Uranus lies in the south eastern part of the constellation of Aries where it remains for the rest of the year. It lies approximately 6.2° north 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 Saturday May 28th in parts of Western Africa and South America.


Neptune image

Neptune is visible low in the east south-eastern morning twilight sky. It is a bluish object which remains at magnitude +7.8 throughout May. Neptune moves from the constellation of Aquarius into the neighbouring constellation of Pisces on Tuesday May 3rd. 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 0.6° north of Mars on Tuesday May 17th and 4° north of the last quarter moon on Tuesday May 24th.


... & Telescopes!

Pluto image

Pluto rises three to four hours before the Sun in the south-eastern pre-twilight morning sky and sets in the mid-morning. It lies close to the eastern edge of the constellation of Sagittarius 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 +14.8 throughout May, 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 Eta Aquariids are active between Tuesday April 19th and Saturday May 28th, peaking on Friday May 6th at around 09:00 BST. They are best seen from tropical and southern latitudes but from northern latitudes they can be seen in a short window as the radiant rises above the eastern horizon in the pre-dawn sky at the end of the first week of May. It has to be said that the peak of this shower is more of an extended plateau of activity lasting several days centred on the maximum. This shower exhibits a variable rate of around 30 meteors per hour, occasionally peaking as high as 85 meteors per hour. The shower is not affected by moonlight this year as the maximum occurs three days after last quarter moon. However, the shower is likely to be affected by the increasing morning twilight glow. The meteors are often swift and bright with long, persistent trains. This shower is loosely connected with Comet 1P/Halley, having separated from the comet hundreds of years ago.

No other significant meteor showers visible from our latitudes are active this month. Further information on meteor showers can be found at the International Meteor Organization web site 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/2021 O3 (Panstarrs) starts the month as a magnitude +8.5 object in the north-western part of the constellation of Taurus and then moves into Perseus for a week, moving into Camelopardalis for the remainder of the month. It should fade significantly by about 3.5 magnitudes as the month progresses. C/2021 O3 (Panstarrs) may be visible with a small telescope low in the west north-western sky at the start of the month during evening twilight getting higher in the sky as the month progresses. It passed perihelion on Thursday April 21st and passes the Earth at a distance of 0.6au on Monday May 9th.

C/2017 K2 (Panstarrs) spends the first ten days of the month as a magnitude +10.3 object in the constellation of Aquila before moving into the constellation of Ophiuchus for the remainder of May. It should brighten by about 0.6 magnitudes as the month progresses and will be visible with a small telescope fairly high in the south-eastern sky around midnight. It is an Oort cloud object in a hyperbolic orbit which will reach perihelion on December 19th 2022.

C/2019 L3 (Atlas) spends the first five days of the month as a magnitude +10.5 object in the constellation of Gemini before moving into the constellation of Canis Minor for the remainder of May. It should fade slowly by about 0.5 magnitudes as the month progresses and will be visible with a small telescope setting in the west south-western sky evening twilight as the month progresses. It reached perihelion on Sunday January 9th 2022.


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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.


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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-May at 22:00 BST for Taunton


Sky chart for mid-May 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 Monday May 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 May 2022, the amount of daylight (measured from sunrise to sunset) increases from 14 hours 48 minutes at the start of the month to 16 hours 13 minutes at the end of the month. Total daylight (sunrise to sunset) for the month is 482 hours 33 minutes.

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

May 2022
Date &
Weekday
Rise/Set timesDay
Length
SunMoon
RiseSetRiseSet
h mh mh mh mh m
01Sun05:4620:3406:0621:3214:48
02Mon05:4420:3606:2522:4414:52
03Tue05:4220:3706:5023:5314:55
04Wed05:4120:3907:22** **14:58
05Thu05:3920:4008:0300:5615:01
06Fri05:3720:4208:5501:4815:05
07Sat05:3520:4409:5802:2915:09
08Sun05:3420:4511:0603:0115:11
09Mon05:3220:4712:1903:2515:15
10Tue05:3020:4813:3403:4515:18
11Wed05:2920:5014:5004:0115:21
12Thu05:2720:5116:0704:1515:24
13Fri05:2620:5317:2804:3015:27
14Sat05:2420:5418:5204:4515:30
15Sun05:2320:5620:2105:0215:33
16Mon05:2120:5721:5205:2515:36
17Tue05:2020:5923:2005:5515:39
18Wed05:1821:00** **06:3915:42
19Thu05:1721:0100:3507:4015:44
20Fri05:1621:0301:3308:5515:47
21Sat05:1521:0402:1310:2015:49
22Sun05:1321:0602:4111:4515:53
23Mon05:1221:0703:0113:0615:55
24Tue05:1121:0803:1814:2515:57
25Wed05:1021:1003:3215:4016:00
26Thu05:0921:1103:4516:5316:02
27Fri05:0821:1203:5818:0616:04
28Sat05:0721:1304:1319:1916:06
29Sun05:0621:1404:3120:3216:08
30Mon05:0521:1604:5321:4216:11
31Tue05:0421:1705:2222:4716:13
** ** 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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Last modified: Thursday, 19 May 2022 at 17:52:12 BST
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