School’s out, the evenings are mild, and with nightfall coming fractionally earlier every day you may have already caught a few meteors streaking across the sky from the long meteor shower, the Perseids. The shower continues until around 24 August and if you’re lucky, you (or your video doorbell) might even be able to see a fireball.
For the UK, the Summer Triangle is a familiar feature of the summer skies, with the blue-white star Vega in Lyra the Lyre the first to make its appearance as darkness descends. To the east, in the constellation Cygnus the Swan, you can see the blue-white supergiant Deneb, the second star of the Summer Triangle. The third is the fast-spinning star Altair, in the constellation Aquila the Eagle.
August welcomes the third supermoon of the year, but when exactly can you see the Sturgeon Moon? Which constellation will it appear in? And, what’s the best time to view it from the UK? Answers to these questions, and more, are below.
If you’re enjoying the warm weather and clear nights, why not plan ahead with our full Moon UK calendar and astronomy for beginners guide? And in case you missed it, check out our round-up of the best Buck Supermoon pictures from last month.
When can I see the Sturgeon Moon 2022?
The Sturgeon supermoon will be visible Friday 12 August 2022, in the UK and around the world. If you’re unable to see August’s supermoon at its peak, it will appear full the night before Thursday 11 August, and at the weekend.
On the night of the full Moon, our nearest celestial neighbour will be visible 3.9° south of Saturn, staying relatively close to the planets throughout the month. Three days later on 15 August, it will pass 1.9° south of Jupiter, then on 18 August, the Moon will be 0.6° north of Uranus, in the constellation Aries. On 19 August, we’ll be able to see the Moon in the constellation Taurus, 2.7° north of Mars before passing 4.3° north of Venus on 25 August.
What is the best time to see the Sturgeon Moon?
The Sturgeon supermoon rises at 8:55pm in the southeast on Thursday 11 August 2022 (as seen from London, UK). As the Sun will begin to set at 8:30pm, the Moon will rise in the still-twilight sky, and although it will be a few hours before peak illumination, it should offer a good view (weather permitting) an hour or so after rising.
The supermoon will reach its peak at 2:36am on the morning of 12 August 2022. This specific moment has a name, syzygy, and it’s the name given to a configuration that occurs for just a moment, when the Moon is directly between the Sun and the Earth, in a straight line.
As the Moon rises, it will keep pace with Saturn in the sky, with Vesta (the brightest asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter) loitering nearby.
If you live in an area where the horizon is obstructed (for example, by buildings or trees), then it’s recommended you wait a little longer, until the Moon has risen higher in the sky at around midnight.
You can, of course, wait up (or set your alarm) for when the Moon reaches its peak illumination at 2:36am. Although it is very difficult to discern the minute difference with human eyes, the bright Sturgeon supermoon will flood the dark sky with light; apologies to everyone hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower.
As an aside, if you’re interested in seeing Vesta through binoculars, the best time to see it will be on the 22 August, when the asteroid is at opposition.
Why is it called the Sturgeon Moon?
The Algonquin tribes of North America named August’s full Moon after the abundance of sturgeon in the rivers and lakes at this time of year. The sturgeon is North America’s largest freshwater fish and have been reported to reach lengths of up to 6m (15-20 feet), and weighing nearly a tonne. Although once plentiful, they are now endangered.
In Old English, the Sturgeon Moon was sometimes known as the Barley Moon, Fruit Moon, or Grain Moon. Some members of the Inuit named the August full Moon after the young swans taking flight at this time, the Swan Flight Moon. In China, August’s full Moon marks the start of the Hungry Ghost Festival, a traditional festival where ancestors are honoured, and ghosts appeased.
Is the Sturgeon Moon 2022 a supermoon?
Yes, August’s full Moon, the Sturgeon Moon in 2022 is a supermoon, and the third supermoon of the year!
Supermoons are categorised when the Moon is at 360,000km or less away from Earth in its orbital path, and we’ll often have two or three full supermoons in a row. In 2022, the June full Moon, the Strawberry Moon and the July full Moon, the Buck Moon were also supermoons.
What causes a supermoon?
A supermoon appears around 7 per cent larger and 15 per cent brighter than a standard full Moon, or 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than a micromoon. This effect is amplified further when the Moon is still low on the horizon, thanks to the Moon illusion.
A supermoon occurs when the Moon, which orbits the Earth in an elliptical (oval-shaped) orbit, is at its closest point to Earth along this orbital path. This point is called the perigee. When the Moon reaches perigee at the same time as a full Moon occurs in the lunar cycle, the Moon looms larger in the sky and we get a supermoon.
Conversely, when a full Moon is at its furthest distance in its orbital path around the Earth (called the apogee), the Moon appears smaller. Rather aptly, this is termed a micromoon.
How often do we get a full Moon?
The lunar cycle occurs over a period of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds, usually rounded to 29.53 days. That means we get a full Moon every 29.53 days. This is calculated by the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth once, as measured from new Moon to new Moon. This is also known as one synodic month.
We usually have 12 full Moons in a calendar year, occurring when the Moon is fully illuminated by the Sun. This happens when the Earth is located directly between the Sun and the Moon.
However, because one lunar cycle takes a little under a calendar month in our Gregorian calendar, we sometimes have 13 full Moons in a year. This occurs around every two to three years. This means that we will see two full Moons in a single month, and this extra full Moon is known as a ‘blue Moon’. The next blue Moon will occur 30-31 August 2023.
Similarly, we sometimes get two new Moons in a month, and this extra new Moon is known as a Black Moon. The most recent Black Moon was 30 April 2022, and the next will be next year, 19 May 2023.
Read more about the Moon: