Archive for August, 2012

Blue Moon

On August 31st, we will see the next Blue Moon.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that the moon will be the colour blue, although that would be cool, but it means that there will be two full moons in a single month. The first full moon of the month occurred on the 1st August so there is enough time left in the month for the next full moon to come around. This can happen every 2-3 years, so isn’t actually out of the ordinary. It is also possible for there to be double Blue Moons in a single year which last happened in 1999 when there were two full moons in January and March but no full moon in February. The next time this will happen will be 2018.

There are actually two definitions of a blue moon. The first is what I have written above which originated in the 1940’s, but the other is when there are 4 full moons in a single season (Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn). The third full moon out of the four is then called the Blue Moon. This came about centuries ago in folklore through old Farmers’ stories. The next one of these Blue Moons will be on August 21st 2013.

But whichever definition you prefer, either way, it is a special month for our companion, the Moon!

Perseid Meteor Gazing

The weather forecast was not good for the actual height of the Perseid meteor shower (it turned out to be shocking) so I went out and had a look the day before, which was last Saturday. It turned out to be a strange half hour or so!

When I first went to look outside there was a massive flash of lightning which made me jump as I wasn’t expecting it, so I assumed that the sky would be completely cloudy, but I was surprised to see that the sky was in fact mostly clear. So I went on out and had a good stare at the sky above.  During the star gaze, lightning was still flashing in the distance somewhere over Dartmoor, which made it interesting. In fact, the lightning turned a bit strange at one point as it seemed to be pulsing in one cloud only! It was like the scene in Independence Day when the alien ships first started to appear out of the skies around the world.  The flashes were quick as well – no more than 10 to 15 seconds apart, so there must have been one heck of a storm over Dartmoor somewhere!

Luckily this weird lightning storm didn’t take anything away from the meteors as I saw some amazing ones shoot across the sky.  On some, the ‘tail’ that they left was very distinct and easy to see well after the meteor itself had vanished! I think in the time I was out there (not much more than half an hour or so), I saw 6 or 7 meteors with probably 3 or 4 of those being really big and bright. Add to this, I saw the ISS again (purely by accident this time) and 6 other satellites, which meant it was a great time sky gazing! In fact, a couple of the meteors were up there with the best I have ever seen, although the one I saw in Weymouth last September was still the best ever as it was very bright and large as it streaked across the constellation of Cassiopeia.

Did anyone else manage to see any Meteors or the strange lighting storm? Send me a comment or tweet me (@strethewey) if you did!

ISS and Perseids 2012

Finally we have had a break in the miserable weather and I have been able to go out and have a look at the night Sky again!

Luckily the clearer night skies have coincided with the time of the year when the International Space Station is most visible in our region.  Last night I saw it for the first time this year and it was as good as it was in 2011.  This year it seems to have changed its trajectory in the sky as it came in from towards the Hoe and travelled towards Yelverton, wheras last year it came from the direction of Cornwall and right over the top of our house towards the edges of Dartmoor. I would recommend to anyone to have a look each evening for it. It is currently coming into view in Plymouth for several minutes between 21:30 and 23:00, but you will have to check for exact timings. Once you see it in the Sky, then you know what it is straight away as it is much brighter than anything else and it is moving at a constant speed. If you can get hold of some binoculars you should be able to see the solar panels on each side of the main pod with ease.

It is also the time of year for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. This year the height of the shower is on the 12th and 13th of August. I am hoping the evenings will stay clear enough on those nights to view them, however I will be out before and after those dates as you will still be able to see the miniscule dust particles light up the night sky, but less frequently. They originate from the Perseus Constellation which is basically looking towards Dartmoor from anywhere in Plymouth, so can easily be seen.