Welcome to the January night sky and to the new year of 2018. This month we have two full moons – the first was on January 2 and the second will be on January 31.
When this happens, the second full moon is sometimes called a “blue moon”.
These full moons are also supermoons as they occur when the moon is in the part of its orbit that brings it closer to the earth, therefore it will appear slightly larger in the sky than otherwise would be the case. This “blue moon” is also a total lunar eclipse, but unfortunately it is not visible from Europe.
The supermoon on January 2 was exceptional as it was the largest of 2018 and caused some of the highest tides of the year as it was at its closest to us. Coincidently, the earth is closer to the sun at this time of the year, so the combined tide-raising power was at its maximum.
2018 is a year of eclipses, with two total lunar eclipses and three partial solar eclipses. Unfortunately, the solar ones are not visible from our part of the world and with the total lunar eclipses, only the one in the early evening of July 27 will be visible to us, with the deep red and already eclipsed full moon rising in the southeast just after sunset.
The peak of the annual Quadrantids meteor shower took place on the night of January 3 into the morning of January 4. Unfortunately, this occurred one night after the brightest full moon of the year, so only the most brilliant meteors would be visible.
In the winter time, the full moons rise much higher in the night sky than during the summer. This is because the moon at that time is directly opposite the sun in the sky, so during the winter the sun is low, therefore, the full moon will rise high in the night sky.
The moon was full on January 2, is last quarter on January 8, new on the 16th, first quarter on the 24th and full again on the 31st.
By Clive Jackson
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Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the January Sky Map click on the pdf link below