Blood and halo moons are highlight of Sussex celestial sights this year

A rare 'blood moon' was visible in Sussex skies in late September
A rare 'blood moon' was visible in Sussex skies in late September
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It’s been a year of fascinating sights in the Sussex skies, with meteor showers, a solar eclipse and a blood and halo moon.

It all started in February with the Halo Moon, a spectacular and unexpected sight on a Monday night.

The halo moon in February

The halo moon in February

A hazy ring of light formed around the full moon and was visible from around 9pm for two hours.

The phenomenon, known as a ‘halo’, can occur when high thin cirrus clouds form, at about 20,000 feet or more.

Light from the moon bounces off and is scattered through ice crystals in the clouds to create a ring of light around it.

There was a lot of excitement in March as people in Sussex prepared for a near-total eclipse of the sun.

The eclipse of the moon before the super blood moon

The eclipse of the moon before the super blood moon

However, thick cloud mean that there were few opportunities to grab a photo, although some did mange it.

The moon moved in front of the sun at around 9.30am, covering up to 97 per cent of its surface.

Earth’s only satellite was back in the headlines, though, in July with a phenomena called a blue moon.

The sight is so rare, the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ was coined because of it.

The Perseid meteor shower could be spotted in Sussex skies PPP-140813-111827001

The Perseid meteor shower could be spotted in Sussex skies PPP-140813-111827001

But rather than the moon actually changing colour, a blue moon refers to when two full moons appear in the same calendar month.

The first full moon was spotted on July 1 and the second appeared on the last day of the month.

Eyes were focused back on the Sussex skies in August when we were treated to the Perseids meteor shower.

The shooting stars, created as space debris from the tail of the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet struck the Earth’s atmosphere were visible for several days.

The partial eclipse of the sun in March - heavy cloud meant it was a rare sight in Sussex SUS-150320-143141001

The partial eclipse of the sun in March - heavy cloud meant it was a rare sight in Sussex SUS-150320-143141001

But arguably the best was saved for last as many people woke up in the early hours to see a ‘super blood moon’ following a partial eclipse.

The internet was awash with claims that this rare astronomical event would signal the start of the apocalypse but experts at NASA were quick to dismiss any possible threat.

The moon was unusually close to the Earth and looked bigger and brighter than usual.

It was a Supermoon and started to go into partial eclipse around midnight.

Then, in the early hours, the Moon was fully visible again and had a distinct red glow from the Earth’s shadow.

Such an event was last seen in 1982 and will not be viewed again until 2033.

Some celestial events for 2016:

February 7 - This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise

March 8 - Jupiter will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.

May 6, 7 - The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times.

May 22 - Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.

August 27 - A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.06 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the western sky just after sunset.

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