Tonight is the last chance to see a beautiful supermoon in the UK sky this year

The last supermoon of 2022 is set to be visible tonight, but you'll need to stay up late to see it in all its glory.

There won't be anymore supermoons this year. Photo: Andrew Fusek Peters
There won't be anymore supermoons this year. Photo: Andrew Fusek Peters

For the fourth and final time this year the moon will be larger and brighter than usual as it reaches its closest distance to Earth during its orbit.

The good news for stargazers and anyone else who enjoys these rare phenomenon is that the skies are set to be clear tonight.

Here's what you need to know about tonight's supermoon rising.

What is a supermoon?

In a nutshell, a supermoon is much brighter and larger than the moon on any other night. They're not unusual, and form a regular part of the moon's orbit of Earth.

Professor Sara Russell, a Merit Researcher in Cosmic Mineralogy and Planetary Sciencesfrom the Natural History Museum explained there that is no formal scientific definition of a supermoon.

"It is very rare that an orbiting body follows an exactly circular path. The Moon has a slight "eccentricity", meaning it travels in an elliptical path around the Earth - so it is sometimes nearer and sometimes further away," she said.

The moon is constantly between 360,000 and 400,000 kilometres away as it orbits our planet. When the moon is at its closest point to Earth it appears around 14 per cent bigger than a full moon.

"It's not that much, actually, and it's doubtful that it makes a huge difference to how it looks, but it gets people looking up at the Moon and thinking about it," Prof Russell added.

They also cast around 30 per cent more light on the planet than when the moon is at its dimmest, and are 15 per cent brighter than a regular full moon, as more of the sun's rays that reflect off its surface reach Earth because it's that much closer.

Occasionally a full moon coincides with a supermoon, when it is at its closest point to us, resulting in an event more spectacular sight.

However, it really is rare. The nearest explain of this happening was in November 2016, which was the closest alignment of a full moon and supermoon since January 1948. It won't be beaten until November 2034 with the closest full moon and supermoon alignment of the 21st century is expected in December 2052.

Professor Russell adds: "The moon is actually, very slowly, moving away from Earth, so our supermoon today was just a typical Moon a billion years ago."

How often is a supermoon

Whereas a full moon occurs in each lunar 29.5-day cycle, a supermoon is not as comment with only three or four examples a year.

Four supermoons will occur each year until 2025.

Why is it called a sturgeon moon?

This example of a supermoon is also known as a sturgeon moon, due to the Algonquin tribes of North America naming August’s full moon after the abundance of sturgeon - which is North America's largest freshwater fish - in the rivers and lakes at this time of year.

Sturgeon have been reported to reach lengths of up to 6m (15-20 feet), and weighing nearly a tonne. The species is now now endangered.

When is tonight's supermoon?

As mentioned earlier on, it will be a late night for those wishing to see the supermoon tonight.

While the larger-than-usual moon will rise from around 8.30pm, its peak illumination period is expected from 1.36am-2.36am.

When is the next supermoon?

If you miss it tonight, you've got a long wait to see it again.

The next time the moon is set to get this close is July 3 next year.

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