Astronomy enthusiasts are in for a treat as the first supermoon of 2023 is set to light up skies around the world tonight.
The so-called ‘Buck Moon’ is expected to shine at around 10.24pm GMT (01.43pm EDT) this evening before reaching its full phase tomorrow morning in a magnificent start to the month of July.
Both Mars and Venus could also be visible once darkness washes over just after 10.40pm GMT at the UK’s western horizon, and at 1.45am EDT in the US, according to Stellarium.
The spectacle will take place as the Moon reaches its full phase, which occurs every 29.5 days.
But as this is a supermoon, our lunar satellite will look 5.8 per cent bigger and shine 12.8 per cent brighter than an ordinary full moon, Starwalk has claimed.
The so-called ‘Buck Moon’ is expected to peak at around 10.24pm GMT (01.43pm EDT) this evening before reaching its full phase tomorrow morning in a magnificent start to the month of July
FULL MOON NAMES AND THEIR MEANINGS
January: Wolf Moon because wolves were heard more often at this time.
February: Snow Moon to coincide with heavy snow.
March: Worm Moon as the Sun increasingly warmed the soil and earthworms became active.
April: Pink Moon as it heralded the appearance of Phlox subulata or moss pink – one of spring’s first flowers.
May: Flower Moon because of the abundance of blossoms.
June: Strawberry Moon because it appeared when the strawberry harvest first took place.
July: Buck Moon as it arrived when a male deer’s antlers were in full growth mode.
August: Sturgeon Moon after the large fish that was easily caught at this time.
September: Corn Moon because this was the time to harvest corn.
October: Hunter’s Moon after the time to hunt in preparation for winter.
November: Beaver Moon because it was the time to set up beaver traps.
December: Cold Moon because nights at this time of year were the longest.
This is because the moon is arriving to its closest point to Earth at 224,895 miles (361,934km) – around 13,959 miles (22,466km) closer than usual.
This is referred to as ‘perigee’, and at this time the moon can look up to 14 per cent bigger than usual.
Because the supermoon is taking place in July, it has been dubbed the ‘Full Buck Moon’ – a name given by the Native Americans.
‘Buck’ refers to young male deer which grow new antlers at the beginning of July every year.
In the southern hemisphere, this phase is also referred to as the ‘Wolf Moon’ or the ‘Ice Moon’, while Celtics called it the Moon of Claiming.
Meanwhile, some Asian cultures refer to it as the ‘Hungry Ghost Moon’, which will be celebrated during August.
As part of the Hungry Ghost Festival, people generally present food offerings to the souls of the dead who are believed to roam the area.
These perishables are among gold and other goods that many believe will prevent the souls from getting up to mischief.
Conspiracy theories have surrounded supermoons and full moons for a long time, with some questioning whether they can affect your emotions or even make people more violent.
Believing that the moon influences human health first arose among early folklore, Royal Musesums Greenwich reports, with common draws to increased sleep problems and seizures.
While the scientific basis for such links is weak, some recent studies claim to have found a connection between the moon and sleep.
Mars and Venus could also be visible once darkness washes over just after 10.40pm GMT at the UK’s western horizon, and at 1.45am EDT in the US, according to Stellarium
Supermoons take place when the moon is at ‘perigee’ – its closest proximity to Earth
In 2021, scientists at Yale and the University of Washington found that people generally have more trouble falling asleep during a full moon.
This was linked to lighting intensity differences preventing sleep initiation in the early hours of the night.
The study explained: ‘In this context, it is primarily moonlight available during the first hours of the night that is more likely to drive changes in the onset of sleep.
‘In contrast, moonlight late in the night, when most individuals are typically asleep, should have little influence on sleep onset or duration.’
While July 3 will see the first supermoon of the year, the next is not too long away.
It’s expected to occur on August 1 at 18:31 GMT (2:31 p.m. EDT).
Although Venus and Mars should be visible once the darkness kicks in, it is important to bring along binoculars or a telescope to a good stargazing spot.
NASA also recommends checking the weather forecast ahead of time to find a cloudless area.
This should also provide an unobstructed view of the horizon, avoiding buildings and any blaring city lights.
To differentiate between stars and planets, watchers should look for objects that don’t twinkle amid the flickering stars.
But if you miss out on the spectacle – don’t worry.
A number of astronomical events are to take place in the coming month including the peak of five meteor showers.
Observers in the northern hemisphere can expect to see the July Pegasids near July 23, with a maximum of five meteors each hour.
This will be taken up a notch towards July 30 as the Southern Aquarids will peak with a shower of around 25 meteors every hour.
The phases of the moon
Like Earth, the Moon has a day side and a night side, which change as the Moon rotates.
The Sun always illuminates half of the Moon while the other half remains dark, but how much we are able to see of that illuminated half changes as the Moon travels through its orbit.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the phases of the moon are:
1. New Moon
This is the invisible phase of the Moon, with the illuminated side of the Moon facing the Sun and the night side facing Earth.
2. Waxing crescent
This silver sliver of a Moon occurs when the illuminated half of the Moon faces mostly away from Earth, with only a tiny portion visible to us from our planet.
3. First Quarter
The Moon is now a quarter of the way through its monthly journey and you see half of its illuminated side.
4. Waxing Gibbous
Now most of the Moon’s dayside has come into view, and the Moon appears brighter in the sky.
5. Full Moon
This is as close as we come to seeing the Sun’s illumination of the entire day side of the Moon.
6. Waning Gibbous
As the Moon begins its journey back toward the Sun, the opposite side of the Moon now reflects the Moon’s light.
7. Last Quarter
The Moon looks like it’s half illuminated from the perspective of Earth, but really you’re seeing half of the half of the Moon that’s illuminated by the Sun ― or a quarter.
8. Waning Crescent
The Moon is nearly back to the point in its orbit where its dayside directly faces the Sun, and all that we see from our perspective is a thin curve.
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