Tonight's Sky

March 2017 Highlights

Month Highlights

The Moon, Mars and Venus can be seen together in the western sky at the very start of the month. By the end of the month, the Moon is again paired up with Mars, but this time the faint planet Mercury sits below them.

Jupiter can be found rising in the east during the evening, and by morning it is in the north-west with Saturn high in the north.

Can you see the stars? GLOBE at Night

Join thousands of people world-wide hunting for stars. GLOBE at Night aims to learn more about light pollution around the world. Each month features a different campaign and for March the search is on for Canis Major. Make your observations between the 20th and 29th and match what you can see to one of eight star charts. The results are plotted on a world map to track how our view of the dark night sky varies – it now includes a decade’s worth of data!

Moon Phases

First Quarter Sunday 5th
Full Moon Monday 13th
Last Quarter Tuesday 21st
New Moon Tuesday 28th

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Sunday 19th, at a distance of 404, 650km.

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Friday 3rd, at a distance of 369,063 km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky:

  • After sunset on the 1st, the waxing crescent Moon is above Venus and to the left of Mars.
  • On the 2nd, the crescent Moon sits above Mars.
  • The First Quarter Moon is to the right of Aldebaran (Taurus, the bull) on the 5th.
  • On the 8th, the waxing gibbous Moon sits above the twin stars of Castor and Pollux (Gemini).
  • The Moon is to the left of bright Regulus (Leo, the lion) on the 10th.
  • The Moon, Jupiter and Spica (Virgo) are lined up in a row on the night of the 14th.
  • Before sunrise on the 19th, the waning gibbous Moon is below the red supergiant star Antares (Scorpius) and to the left of Saturn.
  • On the 21st, the Last Quarter Moon is below Saturn in the early morning sky.
  • During evening twilight on the 29th, the thin crescent Moon is just to the left of Mercury.
  • After sunset on the 30th, the waxing crescent Moon sits to the left of Mars.
  • On the 31st, the Moon can now be seen above Mars.

Planets

Mercury only briefly enters the evening the sky this month. It can be spotted just after sunset during the last few days of the month and it is quite low to the western horizon. Try looking for it on the 29th, when the thin crescent Moon will be just above and to the left of the faint planet.

Venus is low to the western horizon during evening twilight and will only be seen during the first week of the month. On the 1st, the thin crescent Moon sits above Venus and to the left of the red planet Mars. Venus then moves towards the Sun and will return to the morning sky come April.

Earth experiences the Autumn Equinox on Monday 20th. At 9:28pm the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading north. Day and night are of equal length a few days later, on Friday 24th. This delay is partly because our atmosphere bends light from the Sun, and so, we see the Sun before it physically rises and continue to see it for a short while after it has set. This phenomenon is called atmospheric refraction.

Mars can be found in the western sky at sunset. Bright Venus is just below it during the first week of the month. Mars begins and ends the month with the Moon. On the 1st, the crescent Moon sits directly to the left of Mars, and on the 2nd the Moon is just above it. This pattern repeats itself on the 30th and 31st.

Jupiter can be found rising in the east late in the evening, alongside the bright star Spica (Virgo). On the night of the 14th, the Moon, Jupiter and Spica form a tight line in the eastern sky. By morning, Jupiter can be seen in the north-west.

Saturn is high in the north at sunrise. Sitting above it is the constellation of Scorpius with its distinctive curved line of stars. On the 20th, the Moon sits to the left of Saturn.

Meteors

There are two small meteor showers this month that occur near the South Celestial Pole. The gamma Normids is due to peak around the 14th, which unfortunately coincides with the bright Full Moon. This shower is centred on the yellow giant star, gamma Normae in the constellation of Norma, the level. The second shower is the delta Pavonids, which peak in early April, but will start to appear from the 21st. This shower occurs in Pavo, the peacock. The best time for viewing meteor showers is generally between midnight and dawn.

Stars & Constellations

The constellations of Orion and Taurus can be found in the northwest after sunset. Taurus contains the beautiful Pleiades or Seven Sisters, a small cluster including many young blue giant stars.

The brightest star in our night sky, Sirius (Canis Major) is nearly overhead at sunset. Its partner, Procyon in Canis Minor, is high in the north. The twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, lie low in the north-west while Regulus, in Leo, is low to the north-east.

The constellation of Virgo rises in the east after sunset. Sitting above Virgo is the kite-shaped group of stars that form Corvus (the crow).

Crux (or the Southern Cross) is now beginning to climb up to its autumn position – lying on its side in the south-east.

On This Day

1st 1966, Venera 3 (USSR) became the first craft to impact another planet (Venus).

4th 1979, Voyager 1 (USA) discovered the rings of Jupiter.

5th 1590, Tycho Brahe discovered a comet in the constellation of Pisces, the Fish. He was the first to show that comets were further away than the Moon.

6th 1986, Vega 1 (USSR) made the first flyby of Comet Halley and returned the first close-up images of a comet.

8th 1618, Johannes Kepler formulated his Third Law of Planetary Motion.

8th 1976, the largest known fall of stony meteorites occured in Jilin, China. The largest single meteorite had a mass of 1.77 tonnes.

9th 1979, Voyager 1 (USA) discovered volcanism on Io (a moon of Jupiter).

11th 1977, the rings of Uranus were discovered as the planet moved in front of a distant star (USA).

13th 1781, Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel (UK).

17th 1958, Vanguard 1 (USA) was launched. It is the oldest satellite still in orbit.

18th 1965, Voskhod 2 (USSR) carried the first two-person crew into orbit. Aleksei A. Leonov, also carried out the first tethered space walk.

20th 1916, Albert Einstein published his theory of gravity, the General Theory of Relativity.

23rd 1860, J W Drader (UK) takes a daguerrotype of the Moon, making it the first astrophotograph.

25th 1655, Christiaan Huygens discovers Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

29th 1974, Mariner 10 (USA) made the first flyby and took the first close-up images of Mercury.

 

   Your Guide To The Southern Skies.

The Milky Way is a vast white streak across the vault of the sky. Aussie & New Zealand stargazers will find that it contains features unique to viewers in the southern hemisphere.

Sights like the Southern Cross, Coal Sack and Jewel Box twinkle only here. And the upside-down outlook means that constellations can appear quite different from the shapes for which they were named. With this article we take a N.Z. perspective but it all relates to Australia as well. All the footage (above) was taken in Western Australia from the Pinnacles to Nanup and Mullalyup. Australian Skies from Paul Pichugin on Vimeo.

Southern hemisphere skies offer dazzling spectacles for night viewing, some of which cannot be seen from the northern hemisphere. Clear skies are usual over much of New Zealand, and it is possible to get fine views of the Milky Way and its neighbouring galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds. The most recognisable constellation (pattern of stars) in the sky is the Southern Cross, along with its associated features, the Jewel Box and Coal Sack.

Many of the sights that are visible from the northern hemisphere can also be seen from New Zealand. The constellations of Orion and Scorpius are prominent at certain times of the year. However, New Zealand is too far south to see Polaris, the pole star, or the Great Bear (Ursa Major).

The changing night sky

As the sun sets and darkness descends, a number of different features become visible in the sky: the moon, thousands of stars, sometimes one or more planets, faint hazy patches of light and dusty dark regions. Our view of the sky changes over the course of a single night. Some stars appear to rise in the east and set in the west, while others are visible throughout the evening, but seem to circle clockwise around a common point. It is not the stars that are moving during the night, but the viewer: as the earth spins on its axis, different parts of the sky come into view.

Our view of the sky also changes during the course of a year. As the earth orbits the sun, new regions of the sky become visible from one season to the next.

An upside-down view

Northern hemisphere observers consider New Zealanders to have an upside-down view of the sky. People standing in each hemisphere are upside down in respect to each other, and have an inverted view of the same object out in space. For this reason it is difficult for southern hemisphere viewers to pick out the shapes for which many constellations were named.


Southern stars

Coalsack-ESO-B06Life and death of stars

Stars are great spheres of intensely hot gas that are undergoing nuclear reactions (similar to those in hydrogen bombs). Stars form in vast clouds of gas and dust known as nebulae, and have a long lifespan – a few million to tens of billions of years – before they exhaust their supply of fuel. The largest stars are about 120 times the mass of the sun, and are known as supergiants. The smallest, known as red dwarfs, are about one-tenth the sun’s mass. The manner in which stars die depends on their size. The products of many star deaths are also known as nebulae, for they are also great clouds of gas and dust, but in this case ejected from the periphery of an exploding star.

The Southern Cross

Visible year round from New Zealand, the Southern Cross constellation (Crux) and its associates the Pointers are among the brightest stars in the southern sky. Four bright stars form the ends of an imaginary cross with a long axis and short crossbar. The long axis always points in the direction of the South Celestial Pole, and for this reason it serves as a night-time navigational aid.

The Coal Sack and Jewel Box

Along the eastern edge of the Southern Cross is a dark region called the Coal Sack nebula. It is a star nursery, where young stars are forming from dense clouds of glowing gas and dust compressed under intense gravitational force. Just above the Coal Sack and alongside the second brightest star of the Southern Cross is the Jewel Box, a colourful cluster of about 50 stars that can be seen with a telescope.

Easy as ABC

The ABC is a useful way of remembering the defining stars of the southern hemisphere: A is for Alpha Centauri, B is Beta Centauri, and C is the cross.

The Pointers

The Centaurus constellation lies to the east of the Southern Cross. Its two brightest stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri, are commonly known as the Pointers, because an imaginary line between the two stars points towards the cross.

Alpha Centauri appears as the third brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius and Canopus. It shines with a yellow light, and is not a single star, but a triple star system. Two stars orbit around each other every 80 years and both are visible with a good telescope. The third star lies far beyond them, and is so small and faint that it was only discovered in 1915. This is Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun at only 4.22 light years away. It appears to orbit the other two stars every 500,000 years.

Beta Centauri, the 11th brightest star, shines with a blue-white light. It is the nearest of the pointers to the Southern Cross, and is 526 light years from earth. It is a double star system, consisting of two giant stars about 15 times bigger than the sun.

Getting to Grips With Your New Telescope.

New Scope

Amateur astronomers set up their telescopes at dusk.CORBIS

Were you lucky enough to get a new telescope for Christmas? If so, I’m guessing that if you’re reading this then you may be getting annoyed that you can’t see anything through it. Or you may still have to unwrap the thing, daunted by the astronomical learning curve that lies ahead. In nearby galaxy M82, a star is exploding … and you can see it! M82 is actually filled with stars being created and dying.

Using a telescope for the first time isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but fear not! This Discovery News “Telescope Primer” will get you started so you can not only enjoy ‘first light,’ but also get your new ‘scope ready for searching out countless wonders in the night sky.

Which Telescope?

First things first, what kind of telescope is it? Take a look down the open end and you will either see 1) a lens, 2) a lens and a mirror or, 3) just a mirror. If it’s either of the first two then you can skip the next bit.

If you have a telescope with just mirrors (3) then you have a reflecting telescope and you will need to check its collimation! Oh no! I hear you cry. But don’t panic! It’s not as scary as it sounds; collimation just means you need to check the mirrors to see if they are all aligned properly. If they are not then you will not get the best image.

Rough collimation can be done during the day but more accurate alignment needs to be done with a star. Details of performing collimation are quite lengthy but I have a good description on my website so head over there to check yours. Assuming you have now collimated your reflecting telescope then the rest is now the same whatever telescope you have.

Stay Focused and Centered

The next thing you need to do is get the focus in roughly the right place. If you fail to do this, it becomes a “chicken and egg situation”: you can’t focus on a star at night because you cannot find one and you cannot find one because you are out of focus! Take your telescope out during the day and point it at a tree or chimney a long way off in the distance; the further the better.

http://www.davidreneke.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/buying.jpg

Now place a low-power eyepiece in the telescope and adjust the focus until it is nice and sharp. Re-center the object in the eyepiece and now take a look through the finder telescope (the small telescope on the side). You will probably notice that the object you were looking at through the main telescope is not in the center of the telescope. Adjust the screw on the side of the finder telescope to bring the object in the center.

You are aiming to have it simultaneously in the center of the main telescope and the finder telescope. Doing this will greatly aide finding things at night. Now that you are roughly focused, and your finder telescope is aligned, you are ready to wait until nightfall. If you can, it is best to leave your telescope outside as night falls so it cools down with the dropping air temperature, this prevents condensation (dew) forming on the optics.

Once night falls, it should simply be a case of lining up the finder telescope on your target and getting it nicely centered. A good tip here is to get down low and sight along the edge of the telescope tube to line up roughly. Then it should be visible within the finder telescope or at least, very close to it. Move it to the center and hey presto! you should have the target in the field of view of the main telescope.

If you have more than one eyepiece, try swapping for a higher power eyepiece. You will find the atmospheric conditions need to be pretty good for higher powered eyepieces so there will only be a few nights where you can use the higher power, and you will have to rely on low to medium power eyepieces for the other nights.

If you follow these simple steps then I guarantee you will not only be able to find objects in the night sky but line up your telescope to get a closer look. You will be amazed at the views that even a small beginners telescope will show you so get out there and enjoy the Cosmos.

 

Ten Ways To Appreciate The Night Sky

Anything you may find of interest in life takes on greater meaning and may keep your attention longer if you take steps to appreciate it more. This is easily said of interest in the night sky – whether you want to call it amateur astronomy or simply loving the stars above. Here are 10 suggestions to go from a casual interest to calling yourself a dedicated observer.

1. Learn the constellations Evening star charts for each month of the year are readily found in astronomy magazines available at the news-stand, as well as in books we sell on this webpage. Becoming familiar with the patterns among the stars helps you to organize the heavens. Also become acquainted with the phases and motions of the moon and planets.

2. Read Learn about the universe. There are many good books available, as well as magazine articles and websites. Find out what astronomers have found out there, and the theories that have developed and are continually tested as mankind finds out more. There seem to be more questions than answers, which helps keep us going. Be inspired and learn how you can have a look for yourself – for free, and hopefully as close as your backyard.

3. Keep a journal A “stargazing log” of some kind helps you keep track of what you observed, and when. Depending on how far you’d like to go with it, you can keep the dates, hours, descriptions, sketches and impressions of the celestial phenomena that you discovered. Enrich your time by looking up more information about what you just chronicled.

4. Keep warm! You’ll last longer out there if you are dressed for the cold night air; it doesn’t take long to feel cold standing outside! If you use a telescope, find a way to look through it with as little strain as possible.

5. Adapt eyes Have your eyes adapted for the dark. It takes about 10 minutes or so to see the stars well after coming out from a bright house. It can help to let your eyes adjust for a few minutes in a partially lit room. Hint: If you plan to look at the moon in a telescope and also some stars, look at the stars first. Once you train your telescope at the bright moon, you will lose any dark adaptation that you had. A lunar filter fitted to the eyepiece helps.

6. Clubs Get to know others of similar interest. Visit an astaronomy club or planetarium. They sometimes have public observing sessions scheduled.

7. Equipment Before buying a telescope, try binoculars. You will always find them useful, and for some uses, they are better to use than a telescope. When buying a telescope, it may be wise to start small, and get advice from others who have experience. A poor-quality telescope might discourage some, or spur you on to greater. Remember: You don’t have to take a second job to afford astronomy. You can enjoy the sky FREE OF CHARGE – with eyes alone. Sooner or later, however, you’ll likely want a closer look!

8. Picking site Find a suitable location. Observe from an area that is safe, with a wide-open sky and shielded from neighboring lights. Do the best you can with what you have. Even from a city, you have good views of the moon and bright planets.

9. See it all Take it all in – look for meteors, the moon, planets, star clusters, galaxies and satellites, and more.

10. Patience Lastly, have a humble spirit, a patient heart and a good imagination. Rember, little in the sky will appear to happen quickly, and you will frequently be “clouded out.” Let yourself be inspired and filled with awe!

 

Moon Facts

viewing

There are many interesting facts about the moon and trivia that may or may not be important to you. Some interesting facts include:

  • We all know there was a man on the moon, but did you know that there is one who stayed there? Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a Geological Surveyor, who educated the Apollo mission astronauts about craters, never made it into space himself, but it had always been one of his dreams. He was rejected as an astronaut because of medical problems. After he died, his ashes were placed on board the Lunar Prospector spacecraft on January 6, 1999, which was crashed into a crater on the moon on July 31, 1999. The mission was to discover if there was water on the moon at the time, but it also served to fulfill Dr Shoemaker’s last wish.
  • When Neil Armstrong took that first historical step and said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” it would not have occurred to anyone that the step he took in the dust of the moon was there to stay. It will be there for millions of years because there is no wind on the moon. That is, assuming the downdraft from the Command Module upon takeoff back into space didn’t destroy the print. Buzz Aldrin reportedly saw the American flag, much further away, blow over during launch. Nevertheless, any footprints made by the famous astronauts undisturbed by takeoff are, in fact, there to stay.
  • When Alan Sheppard was on the moon, he hit a golf ball and drove it 2,400 feet, nearly one half a mile.
  • In a survey conducted in 1988, 13% of those surveyed believed that the moon is made of cheese.
  • The multi layer space suits worn by the astronauts to the moon weighed 180 pounds on earth, but thirty pounds on the moon due to the lower gravity.
  • How close can you get without completely running out of gas? Apollo 11 had only 20 seconds of fuel left when they landed on the moon.
  • Apollo 15 was the first mission to use a lunar rover. The top speed that was ever recorded in this 4-wheeled land vehicle was 10.56 miles per hour.
  • It is possible to have a month without a full moon. This occurs in February, but either January or March will have two moons.
  • In China, the dark shadows that are on the moon are called “the toad in the moon”.
  • The Apollo missions brought back 2196 rock samples weighing 382 kg in total

Facts About the Moon

  • The moon is not a planet, but a satellite of the Earth.
  • The surface area of the moon is 14,658,000 square miles or 9.4 billion acres
  • Only 59% of the moon’s surface is visible from earth.
  • The moon rotates at 10 miles per hour compared to the earth’s rotation of 1000 miles per hour.
  • When a month has two full moons, the second full moon is called a blue moon. Another definition of a blue moon is the third full moon in any season (quarter of year) containing 4 total full moons.
  • From Earth, we always see the same side of the moon; the other side is always hidden.
  • The dark spots we see on the moon that create the image of the man in the moon are actually craters filled with basalt, which is a very dense material.
  • The moon is the only extraterrestrial body that has ever been visited by humans. It is also the only body that has had samples taken from it.
  • The first space craft to send back pictures from the moon was Luna 3 (built by the Soviet Union) in October 1959.
  • The moon has no global magnetic field.
  • The moon is about 1/4 the size of the Earth.

 

Celestial Events For 2016

There are plenty of exciting sky watching events coming up in the coming year that should excite amateurs and professionals alike. We’ll be sure to remind you before the most noteworthy events, but mark your calendars so you can plan ahead and keep your eyes on the skies throughout 2014! Even if you don’t have a telescope, many of these can be seen with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars.

January

2-3 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower peak – The shower will be visible from January first through the fifth, it peaks overnight on the 2nd and into the morning of the 3rd, with about 40 sightings per hour. These should be very easy to see, because the moon will not be present to wash the meteors out. The meteors will appear to be originating from the constellation Bootes.

5 – Jupiter at Opposition – This is the best day of the year to view Jupiter, as it makes it’s closest approach to Earth and will be fully reflecting light from the sun. There will also be plenty of light reflecting off of its four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These will be visible on both sides of the planet.

March

20 – Asteroid takes out star – Okay, so the asteroid doesn’t really take out a star (because we all know who would win that fight), but it will pass in front of it and make it disappear from view. The asteroid 163 Erigone is 45 miles wide and will pass in front of Regulus, a star in the Leo constellation. For about 12 seconds, the asteroid’s shadow will completely obscure the star. This is a very rare occurrence and unfortunately very few will get the opportunity to see it. The center of the path will begin in New York City and it will move up into Ontario.

April

8 – Mars at Opposition – As Mars makes its closest approach of the year on this date, this is the best time to observe it. Details of the Martian surface will be visible with a telescope using magnification 80-100x. Binoculars will enhance the color, but a medium telescope (about 5-8 inches) is needed to see details. Higher powered telescopes may even be able to see the polar ice caps.

15 – Total Lunar Eclipse – The full moon will be completely caught in Earth’s shadow, known as its umbra. At the onset of the eclipse, the moon will gradually appear to become a rusty red color. Astronomers in North and South America will have the best view of the eclipse, which is expected to last nearly 80 minutes.

22-23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower Peak – The remnants of C/1861 G1 Thatcher appear to us in the form of the Lyrids meteor shower. Though they will be visible between the 16th and 25th, they peak overnight on the 22nd with up to 20 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the second quarter moon will wash out some of the meteors, but the brightest ones should be visible. These meteors have the potential to be very dusty with bright tails that seem to hang in the air.

28-29 – Ring of Fire Eclipse – This partial solar eclipse will produce a “ring of fire” effect as the moon blocks out much of the sun’s light. Unfortunately, the best view of this phenomenon will be over an uninhabited region of Antarctica.

May

5-6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower is composed of dusty remnants of the famed Halley’s Comet. The long-running shower is visible from April 19th until May 28, but peaks overnight on May 5th with up to 60 sightings per hour. The first quarter moon should set right around midnight local time, which will really improve conditions for spotting meteors. Though the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, it will appear that they are coming from the Aquarius constellation.

10 – Saturn at Opposition – Saturn will make its closest approach of the year and will be reflecting plenty of the sun’s light, making this the best opportunity to spot it. A medium telescope (about 5-8 inches) is needed to see the rings and some of the largest moons which will also be lit up from the sun.

24 – Meteor Shower – Before sunrise on the 24th, there could be a great number of meteors which are remnants of the comet P/209 LINEAR. The shower will be relatively short lived, but there is the potential for up to 100 sightings per hour.

June

7 – Mars and Moon Conjuncture – Just after sunset, Mars will be only a couple degrees away from our moon in the Western sky. This conjunction will be visible into the early morning hours.

July

28-29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower Peak – This meteor shower is the remnants of two different comets. Though it runs from July 12 through August 23, it will peak overnight on July 28th with up to 20 sightings per hour. The meteors will appear to come from the Aquarius constellation.

August

10 – Supermoon – This will be the closest full moon of 2014, though it won’t appear much larger than any other full moon to the naked an untrained eye.

12-13 – Perseids Meteor Shower Peak – These meteors are leftovers from Swift-Tuttle comet and are a favorite among many skywatchers. The shower can be visible from July 17th through August 24th, and will peak overnight on August 12th at 60 sightings per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the moon will wash out many of the meteors, though the brightest should still be visible.

18 – Jupiter and Venus Conjuncture – Venus and Jupiter are the brightest planets in the sky and will be 0.25 degrees away from one another, which is less than the width of the moon. They will be best viewed before sunrise.

29 – Neptune at Opposition – The eighth planet will make its closest approach and will be reflecting plenty of sunlight on this day. Those with large, high powered telescopes may be able to see some details of this amazing planet, though it will appear only as a blue speck to everyone else.

October

7 – Uranus at Opposition – Uranus will make its closest approach and will be reflecting plenty of sunlight on this day. Those with large, high powered telescopes may be able to see some details of this amazing planet, though it will appear only as a teal speck to everyone else.

8 – Total Lunar Eclipse – The second total lunar eclipse of the year will last about one hour and will be most visible to those on the western side of North America, as well as the easternmost parts of Asia and Australia. Africa and Europe will not be able to view the rusty red umbra at all.

8-9 – Draconids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower spans from October 6-10, though it will peak overnight on the 8th with up to 10 meteors per hour. Though it is a small shower anyway, it will be especially tough to observe this year because of the light from full moon. However, if you are already out observing the lunar eclipse, it might be possible to see some of the brightest meteors. They will appear as if they are originating from the Draco constellation.

19 – Mars/Comet Near Miss – The recently-discovered Comet C/2013 A1, commonly known as Sliding Spring, will be making an exceedingly close approach with our planetary neighbor. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office has estimated that it will be only 68,000 miles (110,000 kilometers) away from the red planet, which is roughly one-third of the distance from the Earth to the moon. There is currently a 1 in 8000 chance of it striking the surface, which means that our rovers and orbiters should be completely safe.

22-23 – Orionids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower is made up of remnants from the famed Halley’s Comet and spans from October 2 through November 7. It will peak overnight on the 22nd with up to 20 sightings per hour. Because it is the night before the New Moon, 2014 is an excellent year to view this shower. The meteors will appear to be originating from the Orion constellation.

23 – Partial Solar Eclipse – This partial solar eclipse will be visible throughout North America, as well as the easternmost parts of Russia.

November

5-6 – Taurids Meteor Shower Peak – Though the Taurids is a small shower, it has an extremely long span from September 7th through December 10th. It will peak overnight on the 5th with about 10 sightings per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the moon will wash out most of the meteors, but the brightest ones may still be visible. The meteors will appear to originate from the Taurus constellation.

17-18 – Leonids Meteor Shower Peak – The Leonids ranges from November 6th through the 30th, though it will peak overnight on the 17th with about 15 sightings per hour. The moon isn’t expected to wash out many of the meteors, so it should be fairly visible. In 2001, the Leonids produced hundreds of sightings per hour, but we aren’t expected to see that kind of show again until 2034. The shower will appear to originate from the constellation Leo.

December

13-14 – Geminids Meteor Shower Peak – The Geminids is a perennial favorite among skywatchers. It spans from December 7th through the 17th, but will peak overnight on the 13th with up to 120 sightings per hour. The meteors will appear multicolored, which gives an added bonus to the already spectacular show. Though the moon will wash out some of the meteors, they should be bright and plentiful enough to still be very visible. These meteors will appear to originate from the Gemini constellation.

24-25 – Ursids Meteor Shower Peak – The last meteor shower of the year will span from the 17th through the 25th, though it will peak overnight on the 22nd with about 10 sightings per hour. Because the shower’s peak coincides with the new moon, it should be a great time to view the meteors and close up a fantastic year of skywatching. These meteors will appear to originate from the Ursa Minor constellation

– See more at: http://www.iflscience.com/space/skywatching-events-not-miss-2014#sthash.6pyRMp4D.dpuf

There are plenty of exciting sky watching events coming up in the coming year that should excite amateurs and professionals alike. We’ll be sure to remind you before the most noteworthy events, but mark your calendars so you can plan ahead and keep your eyes on the skies throughout this year! Even if you don’t have a telescope, many of these can be seen with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars.

January 3, 4Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. The second quarter moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year, but it could still be a good show if you are patient. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

January 10New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 01:30 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

January 24Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 01:46 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been know as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.

February 7Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 25.6 degrees from the Sun. 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.

February 8New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 14:39 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

February 22Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 18:20 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon, since the harsh weather made hunting difficult.

March 8Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet 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. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. 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.

March 9New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 01:54 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

March 9Total Solar Eclipse. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun, revealing the Sun’s beautiful outer atmosphere known as the corona. The path of totality will only be visible in parts of central Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of northern Australia and southeast Asia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (NASA Interactive Google Map)

March 20March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 04:30 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

March 23Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 12:02 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Full Crow Moon, the Full Crust Moon, the Full Sap Moon, and the Lenten Moon.

March 23Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of extreme eastern Asia, eastern Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the west coast of North America including Alaska. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

April 7New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 11:24 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

April 18Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 19.9 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

April 22Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:24 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Growing Moon, and the Egg Moon. Many coastal tribes called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

April 22, 23Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Unfortunately this year the glare from the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 6New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 19:29 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

May 6, 7Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. 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. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7. The new moon will ensure dark skies this year for what could be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 9Rare Transit of Mercury Across the Sun. The planet Mercury will move directly between the Earth and the Sun. Viewers with telescopes and approved solar filters will be able to observe the dark disk of the planet Mercury moving across the face of the Sun. This is an extremely rare event that occurs only once every few years. There will be one other transit of Mercury in 2019 and then the next one will not take place until 2039. This transit will be visible throughout North America, Mexico, Central America, South America, and parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The best place to view this event in its entirety will be the eastern United States and eastern South America. (Transit Visibility Map and Information)

May 14International Astronomy Day. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.

May 21Full Moon, Blue Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 21:15 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon. Since this is the third of four full moons in this season, it is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.” There are normally only three full moons in each season of the year. But since full moons occur every 29.53 days, occasionally a season will contain 4 full moons. The extra full moon of the season is known as a blue moon. Blue moons occur on average once every 2.7 years.

May 22Mars at Opposition. The red planet 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. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface.

June 3Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet 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. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.

June 5New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 02:59 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

June 5Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 24.2 degrees from the Sun. 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.

June 20Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 11:02 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon.

June 20June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 22:34 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.

July 4New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 11:01 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

July 4Juno at Jupiter. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter after a five year journey. Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno will be inserted into a polar orbit around the giant planet on or around July 4, 2016. From this orbit the spacecraft will study Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetic field. Juno will remain in orbit until October 2017, when the spacecraft will be de-orbited to crash into Jupiter.

July 19Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 22:57 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.

July 28, 29Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. The second quarter moon will block most of the fainter meteors this year but if you are patient you should still be able to catch quite a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 2New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 20:44 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

August 12, 13Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The waxing gibbous moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for should be an excellent early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 16Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 27.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

August 18Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 09:26 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.

August 27Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. 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.

September 1New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 09:03 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

September 1Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The path of the eclipse will begin off the eastern coast of central Africa and travel through Gabon, Congo, Tanzania, and Madagascar before ending in the Indian Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of Africa and the Indian Ocean. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (NASA Interactive Google Map)

September 3Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet 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. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

September 16Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 19:05 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.

September 16Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, and western Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

September 22September Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 14:21 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

September 28Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 17.9 degrees from the Sun. 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.

October 1New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 00:11 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

October 7Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th. The first quarter moon will block the fainter meteors in the early evening. It will set shortly after midnight leaving darker skies for observing any lingering stragglers. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 15Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet 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. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, the planet will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

October 16Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 04:23 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. This is also the first of three supermoons for 2016. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

October 21, 22Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The second quarter moon will block some of the fainter meteors this year, but the Orionids tend to be fairly bright so it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 30New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 17:38 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

November 4, 5Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 4. The first quarter moon will set just after midnight leaving dark skies for viewing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 14Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 13:52 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon. This is also the second of three supermoons for 2016. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

November 17, 18Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning gibbous moon will block many of the fainter meteors this year, but if you are patient you should be able to catch quite a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 29New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 12:18 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

December 11Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 20.8 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

December 13, 14Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The nearly full moon will block out many of the fainter meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 14Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 00:06 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Full Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule. This is also the last of three supermoons for 2016. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

December 21December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 10:44 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.

December 21, 22Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. The second quarter moon will block many of the fainter meteors. But if you are patient, you might still be able to catch a few of the brighter ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 29New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 06:53 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Meteor Shower Guide For 2016

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January 4: The Quadrantids

The new year starts off with a bang, as the brief but active “Quads” peak around 8:00 UT on the morning of January 4th. This shower’s peak lasts just a few hours, which this year favors observers in the Americas. Even better: the waning crescent Moon will pose very little interference. This shower varies a lot in intensity and occasionally delivers 200 meteors per hour as seen from a dark site. The radiant is in northern Boötes, which rises in the northeast about 1 a.m. and climbs higher hour by hour.

April 22: The Lyrids

As with the Quadrantids, April’s Lyrid shower puts on a fairly brief performance. This isn’t one of the year’s strongest displays, though counts can sometimes exceed one per minute. The predicted peak (6:00 UT on April 22nd) is timed well for North America, but scattered light from a full Moon will wash out the fainter ones. Look for a few meteors per hour emanating from a radiant near the Hercules-Lyra border after darkness falls on the 21st.

May 5: The Eta Aquariids

This annual shower originates from none other than Halley’s Comet, and these meteors come in fast — 66 km (41 miles) per second! At its best, under ideal conditions, the Eta Aquariids can deliver a meteor per minute. Note that the shower’s radiant (in the Water Jar asterism of Aquarius) rises late for northerners. Moonlight won’t be a problem. Due to the peak’s timing this year, you might find roughly equal meteor counts on the mornings of May 5th and 6th.

July 28: The Delta Aquariids

You might see this long-lasting shower called the Southern Delta Aquariids, because its radiant is below the celestial equator and thus best seen from the Southern Hemisphere. Moonlight will not interfere, but Delta Aquariids tend to be faint — so don’t count on seeing more than a few of these meteors per hour unless you are observing from a very dark site.

August 12: The Perseids

Even casual skywatchers know about the Perseid meteor shower, because it can deliver at least one meteor per minute under pleasant summer skies.These meteors are bits of debris shed by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 130 years, and the story of how 19th-century observers realized this shower is an annual event is interesting reading.

The shower’s peak performance is relatively brief, so timing is important. According to the International Meteor Organization, the shower’s 2016 maximum should come between 13:00 and 15:30 UT, which is reasonably good timing for western North America. The Moon, just past first quarter, should set around midnight or a little afterward. Even so, start watching on the evening of the 11th as soon as the radiant (near the Double Cluster in Perseus) clears the horizon, then stay up as late as you can.

Calculations by Mikhail Maslov and Esko Lyytinen suggest that Earth might encounter a denser-than-usual Perseid stream this year, offering the tantalizing possibility of seeing maximum counts near 150 per hour under ideal conditions. Dynamicist Jérémie Vauballion (IMCCE, Paris) also predicts that an additional pulse of activity might come about 7 hours earlier — well timed for western Europe, though observers in eastern North America might see an enhancement before midnight on the 11th.

October 21: The Orionids

Here’s another modest shower due to Halley’s Comet. This year light from a waning gibbous Moon will be a nuisance. You might glimpse a few extra meteors per hour from a dark site in the hours before dawn. The shower’s radiant is located above Orion’s bright reddish star Betelgeuse. That’s close enough to the celestial equator for observers in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres to enjoy the show.

November 5: The Southern Taurids

Lasting from mid-September to mid-November, this broad, weak display typically produces at most a dozen meteors per hour at its peak. But in 2005 skywatchers were treated to a “Taurid fireball swarm” dominated by bright, slow-moving fireballs from larger-than-average particles. Don’t expect Taurid fireworks this year, however. Taurids tend to be bright and relatively slow as they cross the sky, which makes them ideal if you’re looking to practice plotting their paths across the sky. The shower’s radiant is in western Taurus, along its border with Cetus.

November 17: The Leonids

The Leonid shower’s parent comet, 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, tends to create narrow concentrated streams of debris that produced prodigious displays in the late 1990s, when it last swung close to the Sun. Since then the shower’s activity has varied from year to year, usually offering little more than a trickle of shooting stars radiating from Leo’s Sickle. Unfortunately, this year’s peak comes just three days after a full Moon.

December 14: The Geminids

This end-of-the-calendar shower is usually the year’s best, with upward of 100 meteors per hour radiating from a spot near the bright star Castor. Even better, the Geminid radiant is well up in the sky by 9 p.m. as seen from at mid-northern latitudes. The Geminids have a brief peak that, in 2016, is predicted for around 0:00 UT — excellent timing for western Europe and eastern north America. But the show will be spoiled, at least in part, by the full Moon that same night. Geminid meteors come from 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid discovered in 1983 that circles the Sun every 3.3 years.

Facts and Tips For Meteor Showers

A word about moonlight. In 2014, moonlight will not pose much of a problem for the January Quadrantids, May Eta Aquarids, July Delta Aquarids, October Orionids and November Leonids. There’s moon-free viewing time for the November North Taurids and December Geminids. The full moon gets in the way of the October Draconids and November South Taurids. Our almanac page provides links for access to the moonrise and moonset times in your sky.

Most important: a dark sky. Here’s the first thing – the main thing – you need to know to become as proficient as the experts at watching meteors. That is, to watch meteors, you need a dark sky. It’s possible to catch a meteor or two or even more from the suburbs. But, to experience a true meteor shower – where you might see several meteor each minute – avoid city lights. Animation Credit: NASA MSFC

Know your dates and times. You also need to be looking on the right date, at the right time of night. Meteor showers occur over a range of dates, because they stem from Earth’s own movement through space. As we orbit the sun, we cross “meteor streams.” These streams of icy particles in space come from comets moving in orbit around the sun. Comets are fragile icy bodies that litter their orbits with debris. When this cometary debris enters our atmosphere, it vaporizes due to friction with the air. If moonlight or city lights don’t obscure the view, we on Earth see the falling, vaporizing particles as meteors. The Lyrids take place between about April 16 and 25. The peak morning in 2013 should be April 22, but you might catch Lyrid meteors on the nights around that date as well.

Where to go to watch a meteor shower. You can comfortably watch meteors from many places, assuming you have a dark sky: a rural back yard or deck, the hood of your car, the side of a road. State parks and national parks are good bets, but be sure they have a wide open viewing area, like a field; you don’t want to be stuck in the midst of a forest on meteor night. An EarthSky friend and veteran meteor-watcher and astrophotographer Sergio Garcia Rill also offers this specific advice:

… you might want to give it a try but don’t know where to go. Well, in planning my night photoshoots I use a variety of apps and web pages to know how dark the sky is in a certain location, the weather forecast, and how the night sky will look. Here’s the link to Dark Sky Finder. It’s a website that shows the light pollution in and around cities in North America which has been fundamental for finding dark sites to setup shots. Dark Sky finder also has an app for iPhone and iPad which as of this writting is only 99 cents so you might want to look into that as well. For people not in North America, the Blue Marble Navigator might be able to help to see how bright are the lights near you.

The other tool I can suggest is the Clear Sky Chart. I’ve learned the hard way that, now matter how perfectly dark the sky is at your location, it won’t matter if there’s a layer of clouds between you an the stars. This page is a little hard to read, but it shows a time chart, with each column being an hour, and each row being one of the conditions like cloud coverage and darkness. Alternatively, you could try to see the regular weather forecast at the weather channel or your favorite weather app.

What to bring with you. You don’t need special equipment to watch a meteor shower. If you want to bring along equipment to make yourself more comfortable, consider a blanket or reclining lawn chair, a thermos with a hot drink, binoculars for gazing at the stars. Be sure to dress warmly enough, even in spring or summer, especially in the hours before dawn. Binoculars are fun to have, too. You won’t need them for watching the meteor shower, but, especially if you have a dark sky, you might not be able to resist pointing them at the starry sky.

Are the predictions reliable? Although astronomers have tried to publish exact predictions in recent years, meteor showers remain notoriously unpredictable. Your best bet is to go outside at the times we suggest, and plan to spend at least an hour, if not a whole night, reclining comfortably while looking up at the sky. Also remember that meteor showers typically don’t just happen on one night. They span a range of dates. So the morning before or after a shower’s peak might be good, too.

Remember … meteor showers are like fishing. You go, you enjoy nature … and sometimes you catch something. Source:Earth and Sky

 

There are plenty of exciting sky watching events coming up in the coming year that should excite amateurs and professionals alike. We’ll be sure to remind you before the most noteworthy events, but mark your calendars so you can plan ahead and keep your eyes on the skies throughout 2014! Even if you don’t have a telescope, many of these can be seen with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars.

January

2-3 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower peak – The shower will be visible from January first through the fifth, it peaks overnight on the 2nd and into the morning of the 3rd, with about 40 sightings per hour. These should be very easy to see, because the moon will not be present to wash the meteors out. The meteors will appear to be originating from the constellation Bootes.

5 – Jupiter at Opposition – This is the best day of the year to view Jupiter, as it makes it’s closest approach to Earth and will be fully reflecting light from the sun. There will also be plenty of light reflecting off of its four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These will be visible on both sides of the planet.

March

20 – Asteroid takes out star – Okay, so the asteroid doesn’t really take out a star (because we all know who would win that fight), but it will pass in front of it and make it disappear from view. The asteroid 163 Erigone is 45 miles wide and will pass in front of Regulus, a star in the Leo constellation. For about 12 seconds, the asteroid’s shadow will completely obscure the star. This is a very rare occurrence and unfortunately very few will get the opportunity to see it. The center of the path will begin in New York City and it will move up into Ontario.

April

8 – Mars at Opposition – As Mars makes its closest approach of the year on this date, this is the best time to observe it. Details of the Martian surface will be visible with a telescope using magnification 80-100x. Binoculars will enhance the color, but a medium telescope (about 5-8 inches) is needed to see details. Higher powered telescopes may even be able to see the polar ice caps.

15 – Total Lunar Eclipse – The full moon will be completely caught in Earth’s shadow, known as its umbra. At the onset of the eclipse, the moon will gradually appear to become a rusty red color. Astronomers in North and South America will have the best view of the eclipse, which is expected to last nearly 80 minutes.

22-23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower Peak – The remnants of C/1861 G1 Thatcher appear to us in the form of the Lyrids meteor shower. Though they will be visible between the 16th and 25th, they peak overnight on the 22nd with up to 20 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the second quarter moon will wash out some of the meteors, but the brightest ones should be visible. These meteors have the potential to be very dusty with bright tails that seem to hang in the air.

28-29 – Ring of Fire Eclipse – This partial solar eclipse will produce a “ring of fire” effect as the moon blocks out much of the sun’s light. Unfortunately, the best view of this phenomenon will be over an uninhabited region of Antarctica.

May

5-6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower is composed of dusty remnants of the famed Halley’s Comet. The long-running shower is visible from April 19th until May 28, but peaks overnight on May 5th with up to 60 sightings per hour. The first quarter moon should set right around midnight local time, which will really improve conditions for spotting meteors. Though the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, it will appear that they are coming from the Aquarius constellation.

10 – Saturn at Opposition – Saturn will make its closest approach of the year and will be reflecting plenty of the sun’s light, making this the best opportunity to spot it. A medium telescope (about 5-8 inches) is needed to see the rings and some of the largest moons which will also be lit up from the sun.

24 – Meteor Shower – Before sunrise on the 24th, there could be a great number of meteors which are remnants of the comet P/209 LINEAR. The shower will be relatively short lived, but there is the potential for up to 100 sightings per hour.

June

7 – Mars and Moon Conjuncture – Just after sunset, Mars will be only a couple degrees away from our moon in the Western sky. This conjunction will be visible into the early morning hours.

July

28-29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower Peak – This meteor shower is the remnants of two different comets. Though it runs from July 12 through August 23, it will peak overnight on July 28th with up to 20 sightings per hour. The meteors will appear to come from the Aquarius constellation.

August

10 – Supermoon – This will be the closest full moon of 2014, though it won’t appear much larger than any other full moon to the naked an untrained eye.

12-13 – Perseids Meteor Shower Peak – These meteors are leftovers from Swift-Tuttle comet and are a favorite among many skywatchers. The shower can be visible from July 17th through August 24th, and will peak overnight on August 12th at 60 sightings per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the moon will wash out many of the meteors, though the brightest should still be visible.

18 – Jupiter and Venus Conjuncture – Venus and Jupiter are the brightest planets in the sky and will be 0.25 degrees away from one another, which is less than the width of the moon. They will be best viewed before sunrise.

29 – Neptune at Opposition – The eighth planet will make its closest approach and will be reflecting plenty of sunlight on this day. Those with large, high powered telescopes may be able to see some details of this amazing planet, though it will appear only as a blue speck to everyone else.

October

7 – Uranus at Opposition – Uranus will make its closest approach and will be reflecting plenty of sunlight on this day. Those with large, high powered telescopes may be able to see some details of this amazing planet, though it will appear only as a teal speck to everyone else.

8 – Total Lunar Eclipse – The second total lunar eclipse of the year will last about one hour and will be most visible to those on the western side of North America, as well as the easternmost parts of Asia and Australia. Africa and Europe will not be able to view the rusty red umbra at all.

8-9 – Draconids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower spans from October 6-10, though it will peak overnight on the 8th with up to 10 meteors per hour. Though it is a small shower anyway, it will be especially tough to observe this year because of the light from full moon. However, if you are already out observing the lunar eclipse, it might be possible to see some of the brightest meteors. They will appear as if they are originating from the Draco constellation.

19 – Mars/Comet Near Miss – The recently-discovered Comet C/2013 A1, commonly known as Sliding Spring, will be making an exceedingly close approach with our planetary neighbor. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office has estimated that it will be only 68,000 miles (110,000 kilometers) away from the red planet, which is roughly one-third of the distance from the Earth to the moon. There is currently a 1 in 8000 chance of it striking the surface, which means that our rovers and orbiters should be completely safe.

22-23 – Orionids Meteor Shower Peak – This shower is made up of remnants from the famed Halley’s Comet and spans from October 2 through November 7. It will peak overnight on the 22nd with up to 20 sightings per hour. Because it is the night before the New Moon, 2014 is an excellent year to view this shower. The meteors will appear to be originating from the Orion constellation.

23 – Partial Solar Eclipse – This partial solar eclipse will be visible throughout North America, as well as the easternmost parts of Russia.

November

5-6 – Taurids Meteor Shower Peak – Though the Taurids is a small shower, it has an extremely long span from September 7th through December 10th. It will peak overnight on the 5th with about 10 sightings per hour. Unfortunately, the light from the moon will wash out most of the meteors, but the brightest ones may still be visible. The meteors will appear to originate from the Taurus constellation.

17-18 – Leonids Meteor Shower Peak – The Leonids ranges from November 6th through the 30th, though it will peak overnight on the 17th with about 15 sightings per hour. The moon isn’t expected to wash out many of the meteors, so it should be fairly visible. In 2001, the Leonids produced hundreds of sightings per hour, but we aren’t expected to see that kind of show again until 2034. The shower will appear to originate from the constellation Leo.

December

13-14 – Geminids Meteor Shower Peak – The Geminids is a perennial favorite among skywatchers. It spans from December 7th through the 17th, but will peak overnight on the 13th with up to 120 sightings per hour. The meteors will appear multicolored, which gives an added bonus to the already spectacular show. Though the moon will wash out some of the meteors, they should be bright and plentiful enough to still be very visible. These meteors will appear to originate from the Gemini constellation.

24-25 – Ursids Meteor Shower Peak – The last meteor shower of the year will span from the 17th through the 25th, though it will peak overnight on the 22nd with about 10 sightings per hour. Because the shower’s peak coincides with the new moon, it should be a great time to view the meteors and close up a fantastic year of skywatching. These meteors will appear to originate from the Ursa Minor constellation

– See more at: http://www.iflscience.com/space/skywatching-events-not-miss-2014#sthash.6pyRMp4D.dpuf

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